Long Grove candidates consider first property tax to fund road repairs
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Roads have long preoccupied residents of Long Grove.
Lately that's most often meant the proposed extension of Route 53 into Lake County, but more recently the focus has shifted to roads in the village itself and their deteriorating conditions.
Heading into next month's municipal elections, candidates for village trustee are debating a potential referendum that could impose Long Grove's first property tax to provide funding for road repairs.
Incumbent Trustee John Marshall and newcomers George Yaeger, Lori Lyman and Christopher Borawski are running for three seats on the village board.
Among the issues the next board will have to decide is whether to ask village voters to approve a property tax to address crumbling roads.
According to the candidates, there are two proposals likely to be considered — one to cover only public roads, the other to cover both public and private thoroughfares. The public-only plan would cost the average homeowner $400 to $500 a year. The latter proposal would cost as much as $1,600 to $1,800 annually. Both would expire after a defined period, perhaps 10 years, candidates said.
Yaeger, a past president of the Country Club Estates Home Owners Association, realizes the import of such a tax.
"The original intent of Long Grove was not to levy any real estate taxes. So this is really a juncture in our history where we have to make some hard decisions," he said. "I think we have to recognize that the taxing isn't something that we're looking forward to. But it's needed and necessary."
Marshall said Long Grove needs steady funding to pay for roadwork because the village's current revenue streams — sales taxes, building permits and state sources — have proved less dependable in recent years.
"Our roads are diminishing dramatically," he said. "One of the issues is that we don't have the money to fund the amount of roadwork that we need to do. And we need to find some source of revenue that we know is going to be there.
"So I am for at least putting some kind of message out there to people and letting them make some kind of decision on what they think is the best way we need to generate money," he said.
Marshall said he is leaning toward making all roads public, "only because that would be the simplest thing to do, but I'm sure that's not popular in terms of people paying an extra $1,600 a year to have their roads plowed and repaired."
Lyman, a former member of the Stevenson High School board, supports a tax for roads, but believes the village also should be seeking alternative sources of revenue. She's in favor of the less costly option of taxing only to repair roads currently public and believes the village should not dip into its reserves to fund improvements.
"Long Grove has been very conservative — and rightfully so — on reserves, because we don't get a property tax here," she said. "It's not prudent for us to not have a good percentage in reserve."
"None of these things are going to be the silver bullet," she said. "We do need revenue. And the best way, to me, to get that revenue is through a referendum asking for all of the residents to chip in and pay for the upkeep of the public roads."
Borawski, a current member of the park board and a former member of the village board, said he does not favor a villagewide tax to repair roads.
"The road improvements are going to be basically (for) residential streets that will impact — or improve — the roads for only a few of the residents," he said. "The question is do we tax all of the village residents to take care of the roads for a few? Or do we tax the people who live on those particular roads to take care of their own roads in the future?"
One option, he said, is to use existing funding as it becomes available to fix the roads, then create a special service area to fund future work for each road.
"Basically, the village would vacate the road in favor of the SSA," he said. "That would be equal for everybody."
Referring to the proposal that would cost the average homeowner $1,600 a year, he said, "That's a heck of a lot of money to pay for roads that I'll never use."
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