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updated: 8/16/2013 7:41 PM

Winfield to seek another sales-tax hike

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Several months after Winfield voters approved a sales-tax increase to raise money for road repairs, village trustees have agreed to put an identical request on the March ballot.

But while increasing sales taxes a second time would help the town's finances in the long term, officials say an immediate problem must be addressed: the number of already crumbling streets.

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Nearly 30 percent of Winfield's roads are in failing condition, and fixing them would cost an estimated $4 million, officials said this week.

"If we don't take action on that within five years, the estimated cost is going to go up to $10 million," Village President Erik Spande said Friday. "We're out of time. We've got to find an answer."

Spande's remarks came a day after the village board decided to seek the March ballot question that, if approved, would allow Winfield to add a quarter-cent local sales tax to other sales taxes already in place.

An identical measure approved in April by voters increased the total sales tax paid in Winfield to 7.5 percent. That rate is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

"I am not excited about taxes in general," Trustee Tim Allen said. "But as far as sales tax, if we put in some sort of big-box store like a Costco, that quarter-point increase would be $250,000."

Without new retail development, the proposed higher tax could generate about $70,000 to $85,000 a year in additional revenue for the village, officials estimate. Qualifying food or drug sales would be exempt.

The problem is voters would need to approve several sales tax hikes over the next few years for the village to raise the amount of revenue it needs to fix all its roads.

Trustee James Hughes said he doesn't think there's enough time to bring the issue to voters in the March primary.

"We have to put together a plan this fall, and we need to take action," Hughes said. "I hope my fellow trustees are willing to step up and do something. My fear is that nothing will happen, and our village is going to be staring down a $10 million road repair."

Even if Winfield raises the $4 million to fix its worst roads, it will need about $650,000 a year to maintain its roads on a 20-year resurfacing cycle. The village gets about half that amount annually from motor fuel taxes and other sources.

Revenue options trustees are expected to consider include creating special service areas, adding more red-light cameras and resurrecting the town's vehicle sticker program. If vehicle stickers are reinstated, the $40-per-car cost could generate about $200,000 a year, officials estimate.

Another possibility is for the village to use its bonding authority. Winfield can borrow up to $3.8 million for projects without voter approval, officials said.

Hughes said he would support borrowing money if the town also took steps to promote retail development. For example, he said, officials need to allow redevelopment of some parcels along Roosevelt Road.

Spande said he agrees development is key to bolstering revenue. "That has to be part of the overall solution," he said.

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