St. Charles business owners came to the Arcada Theatre Tuesday night to discover what the four mayoral candidates would do to ease their tax burden. The answer, at least in terms of sales taxes, was nothing.
"I'm not proposing to do anything with those taxes," said Jotham Stein in voicing an opinion echoed by his three rivals. "What I am proposing is lowering our property taxes."
Stein said the way to do that is to actually shift more of the burden for funding city services onto sales tax revenue. That doesn't mean increasing the city sales tax, he said. But it does mean bringing more businesses into the city with customers who will pay sales taxes.
Fueling business growth in the city is a promise all four candidates made in just about every answer they provided Tuesday night at a forum organized by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.
Jake Wyatt said he can't promise any lowering of taxes.
"Lowering taxes, that's not going to happen," Wyatt said. "I'm not going to sit there and make a promise I can't keep."
Wyatt said he wants to monitor the overall tax burden on citizens by having quarterly meetings with all the other taxing bodies St. Charles residents fund. The meetings could help determine if citizens are paying for unnecessary services, Wyatt said. Beyond that, Wyatt said he is committed to rejuvenating the downtown.
"We have to fill the 18 vacancies downtown," Wyatt said. "If you fill them up, you're going to generate $4 million to $5 million in additional revenue."
Ray Rogina said taxes paid to the city have stayed low thanks to an 11 percent overall reduction in city expenses since 2008. Part of that occurred on his watch, and he promised to continue the belt-tightening if elected mayor.
Rogina said emphasizing culture and bringing a new educational institution to town is the key to the future of the city's economy.
"It's about creating drivers for the city that will bring visitors to the city," Rogina said. "Culture, entertainment and education need to supplement downtown, retail and restaurants."
John Rabchuk said the city needs a new identity to kick-start the financial picture for not just the city but also it's existing businesses.
"The best thing that can happen to our existing business and the tax rate is for the city to regain its vibrancy and its energy," Rabchuk said. "The city is not a destination right now. Just saying we need to go out and talk to businesses isn't going to do it."
Rabchuk promised to engage business owners in more of the city's major commercial and residential development decisions as well as financial policies such as taxes.