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EDWARDSVILLE - Sales taxes in Edwardsville will increase by 0.25% to fund greenspace acquisition and public safety pensions following approval from the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting. The increase means an increase of 0.25% or 25 cents for every $100 or it will go to 0.75% overall.

Several public comments were made in support of the sales tax, with many hoping to preserve Edwardsville’s remaining greenspace from the city’s rapid development.

Edwardsville High School Senior Jake Essner said at the meeting he thinks the sales tax is a “big step forward” in preserving greenspace for future generations.

“I think that this is a really big step forward for Edwardsville in terms of ensuring that our greenspace is protected for future generations, including my own,” Essner said. “I know that my peers and I have had plenty of good experiences with our current greenspaces and our current parks, such as the Watershed or Township Park.”

Essner acknowledged city officials’ efforts to expand interconnectivity in central Edwardsville, and said he’d like to see those efforts extend to the northern end of the city, including the installation of more bike trails. He also said he’d like to make sure any newly acquired greenspace isn’t completely surrounded by development to maintain its accessibility.

Michael Mulligan, a family physician and Edwardsville resident since 1989, emphasized the numerous health benefits of greenspace.

“One of our biggest health crises for these kids is social media [and] depression, and the pandemic celebrated that,” Mulligan said. “The best prescription that you can have for your children is greenspace - it’s an up and coming prescription from physicians to get out and get greenspace, not prescription medications.”

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Cool Cities Committee Member Michael Katich also spoke at the meeting and pointed out the percentage of land dedicated for parks in Edwardsville is much lower than several cities across the country. He also noted the positive effects greenspace has on mental and physical health.

“I love our parks and I think they’re fantastic, but I think we could use more,” Katich said. “The trust for public land shows that Edwardsville has 3% of land area being used for parks, and the median for 14,000 cities measured across the U.S. is 15%, so the 3% is pretty low … I think Edwardsville should be better and we could increase that for sure.”

Mayor Art Risavy said he was initially against the sales tax increase as a local business owner, but now supports it after conversations with aldermen and residents.

“We want Edwardsville to stay the city that we have - not only for us, but for the next future generations of young people in our community,” Risavy said. “I’m really excited about it, I know we’re going to be able to do a lot of things, and I know that we will work together to make sure this money is used not only for greenspace … but also, just as important, pension funding.”

Alderman SJ Morrison said he considers the funding for both public safety pensions and greenspace “critical,” and said this sales tax increase will lead to significant improvements around the city.

“The millions of dollars that this will generate for those purposes I think will allow us to make some really significant quality of life improvements to our community, some of which I believe will become your families’ favorite places, favorite parts of Edwardsville,” Morrison said.

City Council members voted unanimously to pass the sales tax, followed by cheers and applause from those in attendance.

This sales tax increase will be imposed on all Edwardsville businesses selling goods and services, with exceptions for grocery food items, “prescription and nonprescription medicines, drugs, medical appliances and insulin, urine testing materials, syringes and needles used by diabetics,” according to the language of the ordinance.

Revenue generated by this Home Rule Sales Tax will fund “public safety pension funds, greenspace acquisition and maintenance, and capital improvements.” It will officially go into effect on January 1, 2024.

A full recording of the Sept. 19 meeting is available at the top of this story or on the City of Edwardsville Facebook page.

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