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Article posted: 9/20/2013 6:33 PM

Water rate, referendum major topics at Fox Lake meeting

By Lee Filas

Just as Fox Lake residents were trying to get used to the idea they may have to pay higher water rates, village officials said they plan to ask voters for a property tax increase to improve village streets.

Mayor Donny Schmit announced at a town-hall meeting Thursday the village board intends to seek voter approval in March on a tax rate increase for a $6 million bond to fund road improvements.

Schmit said the total cost for the street reconstruction and repair project would be $8 million, but the village would pick up $2 million of the cost.

If the referendum is approved by voters, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $10 per month in property taxes to the village, or about $120 a year, he said.

Fox Lake streets are slowly deteriorating, and the money would go a long way to addressing the issue, Schmit added. He did not say specifically which streets are being targeted for repair, but that additional information would be released before the referendum.

"We'll bring that to the voters and let them decide what to do," he said Friday.

However, the big talk at Thursday's town hall meeting at the Grant High School auditorium was about a proposed water rate increase that, if approved by the village board, would go into effect Oct. 1.

The Fox Lake water system -- specifically on the south side of town -- is slowly deteriorating, and improvements must be made in the very near future to keep it operational and to meet state and federal guidelines, Schmit said.

Officials have said the rate hike depends on the amount of water usage at each home, but on average, the rate for a family of four using 4,000 gallons a month will jump from $41.22 to $54.20 per month.

Some residents say they are feeling the squeeze.

Rob Kotter said, because the condominiums at Vacation Village where he lives do not have water meters to measure their monthly usage, residents are forced to pay a flat rate to the village for water and garbage. Under that scenario, his bill is jumping from $117 to $185 every other month.

"It really amazes me that more people are not upset with the increase," Kotter said. "I mean, I'm really distraught about it. We don't use that amount of water to justify the rate increase."

Neighbor Sandra Foley said she can't afford the proposed increase.

"This is going to be a big burden on the people living in Vacation Village," Foley said. "I've been here for 14 years, but I may have to sell. I can't afford it anymore."

The village board has not formally approved the rate increase, but that measure is on the village board agenda Tuesday night.

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