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Article updated: 4/4/2012 7:41 AM

Bartlett budget may include new taxes

By Jessica Cilella

It is likely that Bartlett residents will face some new taxes after a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is approved later this month.

Village board members met as a committee Tuesday to continue a very serious and more than monthlong public discussion of the proposed budget, in which total expenditures have been cut by less than 1 percent from this year's budget to about $48.5 million.

Operating expenditures are proposed to be cut by slightly more than 1 percent, to about $37 million.

The board was presented with five options Tuesday to address some of the village's budgetary issues, two of which included new taxes.

The options were laid out in a memo that also explained how the village is experiencing a structural budget deficit due to a decline in major revenues since the recession hit -- despite the fact that the budget has increased by less than 1 percent over the past four years.

Leaving the proposed budget as is would result in the use of $536,000 from the general fund and $350,000 in developer deposits. The first three options involve taking varying amounts of money from both.

Trustee Frank Napolitano was the only board member in favor of one of these options, specifically option 3, which would increase the amount of money used from the general fund balance to $836,000 in order to avoid additional budget reductions or taxes.

"I know we need to look at the long term but at the same time I still can't see that we're raising taxes … there's got to be a better way," he said.

The remaining trustees expressed concerns about how dipping into reserves would affect the village's Aa1 bond rating and were split on the remaining two options, both of which would implement a gas utility tax and an electric utility tax in order to avoid using any general fund reserves or developer deposits.

The difference between the two options is vehicle stickers. There has been discussion in recent weeks of raising the price of vehicle stickers by $15 in an effort to create new revenue.

Option 4 would eliminate vehicle stickers entirely, while option 5 would keep the vehicle sticker at its current price, and result in a surplus of almost $200,000. Option 4 would mean an extra $85 in taxes per household each year, and option 5 would create an extra $70 in taxes per household each year.

Trustees Eric Shipman and Greg Martin said they were leaning toward option 4.

"It's the one that is the most equal to everyone involved," Shipman said. "If we're at a point where we have to find new revenue it seems to me that the utility tax is the one that is the most fair, and in my mind, most forward thinking."

Martin seemed to find compromise with option 4.

"If we pick number 3 we're going to be here next year doing the same thing," he said. "I'm willing to go number 4. I like number 3, I don't want to go number 5."

Trustees Dennis Nolan and T. L. Arends seemed to like option 5 more.

"I think the long term issue for us -- and I think we cannot lose sight of the long term plan -- is we cannot continue to draw down reserves," Nolan said. "Our staff has done the best they can since 2007 making money last, and I think now is the time for this board, from a policy standpoint, to really look long term."

"I think that to give up that revenue source (vehicle stickers) is somewhat backward thinking," he added.

Arends made a point to reassure residents that despite the tough decisions the board will have to make, the village overall is doing well financially.

"We are in good shape," she said. "It's just, it's catching up. We have to do something to alleviate pressure now and for future years."

Mayor Michael Airdo will not be voting on the budget, but said he understands both Napolitano's views and the concerns of the other trustees.

"I do think that reserves exist for rainy days, and I do think that we may be in a rainy day," he said. "The idea of adding additional taxes on them (residents) at this time is difficult."

"I think that it is reasonable for use to ask our residents to pay an increase in utility tax," he added. "But I do think we have to give them some break … I think that getting rid of the vehicle stickers sends a real message, and I think it says to the residents, 'We know you hate these.' They're despised."

The board is scheduled to vote on the budget at their meeting on April 17.

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