Springfield's two recreational marijuana dispensaries are generating $45,000 a month in revenue for the city, which levies a 3 percent tax on sales.

It amounts to $18 million in annual sales for pot purveyors.

Tax collection numbers emerged this week when the city council approved a budget for the fiscal year that starts next week. Previously, city officials had said that they could not reveal how much the city has collected because just two marijuana companies do business in the Springfield area, and making public the number would reveal otherwise confidential sales information to dispensaries that compete for business.

Sangamon County now has three recreational dispensaries, two operated by Ascend Illinois within city limits and a third in Grandview that is operated by Maribis, which plans to open another dispensary in Parkway Pointe at a shuttered movie theater on Springfield's west side. Before Tuesday's final budget vote, Mayor Jim Langfelder told the council that Ascend Illinois has given permission for public release of tax collection figures.

The city started collecting marijuana taxes last July. So far, $350,000 has accumulated in city coffers, budget director Bill McCarty told the council. At the current rate, the city will collect $540,000 a year in pot taxes, but McCarty said the future looks bright. "We expect that amount to increase as we get more dispensaries," he said.

The city has allocated half the take to funding pensions for the police and fire departments and the other half for economic development projects on the east side.

In other budget news, the council reduced the fire department's budget, which is north of $40 million, by $1.4 million, drawing fire from the firefighter's union.

"This department is and has been run very lean for almost 30 years," said Vince Zummo, union president. "Springfield is not immune from mass shootings and/or violence, especially considering it is the state capital."

About a dozen firefighters attended the hearing, some sitting next to each other despite social-distancing protocols. In November, one-third of the fire department, including then-chief Allen Reynes, was sidelined due to a COVID outbreak, which helped fuel overtime costs as healthy employees filled in for those who were sick or in quarantine.

After the meeting, Zummo said that firefighters have been vaccinated and were wearing masks. "I can't control where they sit," fire chief Brandon Blough offered.

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