Libertyville streets won't crumble to dust if voters reject a property tax increase to fix them but waiting will delay the inevitable and the price could triple, village officials say.
Public education of the issue is gearing up as the March 20 primary election approaches.
Residents in the next week or so will receive a rare printed version of the village newsletter to include information making a case for a tax increase to repair and resurface 30 miles -- or about one third -- of all village streets over the next several years.
The list of specific streets (subject to revision) that would be repaired in each of the next five years is posted at libertyville.com and a public forum on the topic is planned for March 5.
The village will ask for approval to issue $20 million in bonds, enough to quadruple the usual amount spent on road work in a given year.
The owner of a $300,000 home eventually could pay about $136 per year in extra property tax to fund the program that would begin in the 2013 construction season.
But officials say they are mindful of the tough economy and stress the increases will be in increments over four years as the bonds are issued.
"The increase in property tax would be authorized but it would not be all at once," said Village Administrator Kevin Bowens.
Even with the increase, Bowens said, Libertyville would continue to have among the lowest rate in Lake County.
Another potential source of confusion on the ballot question is that the interest rate on the bonds would not exceed 9 percent.
Bowens said that's a maximum set by state law and it would be unlikely the village would choose to borrow at that rate. Recent bond issues have ranged from 4 percent to 5 percent, he added, and is the amount on which the potential property tax increase for the bonds was calculated.
Village leaders have been considering options for more than a year.
The argument for a tax increase is that grinding, resurfacing and repairing deteriorating streets is necessary before they get worse and need to be rebuilt. Resurfacing streets costs about $650,000 per mile compared to about $1.85 million per mile to rebuild.
Village leaders say they have been cutting expenses and leveraging state and federal funds to address road issues but continue to fall behind.
"We have not been successful in finding enough money to keep up with the work that needs to be done," Bowens said.
The village typically spends about $1 million per year on road work but, "It's just not enough to keep up," Bowens said. A village study showed the optimum amount to do that would be $3.7 million a year.
The work as proposed is spread throughout the village but is subject to change. Street conditions were examined and ranked by an outside firm in 1997 and has been monitored and updated by village staff.
"If we don't do it, the downside is paying substantially more for reconstruction," said Public Works Director John Heinz.
And if voters reject the request?
"We'll continue to do the best we can and do as much as we can," Bowens said. "At least one positive thing is it's going to educate residents to the extent of the problem."