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Article updated: 10/8/2013 12:16 AM

Hoffman Estates favors new taxes for roads, projects

Hoffman Estates officials tonight will consider new taxes and fees to help pay for road and capital improvement projects due to a lingering shortfall in the general fund revenues once relied upon.

Hoffman Estates officials tonight will consider new taxes and fees to help pay for road and capital improvement projects due to a lingering shortfall in the general fund revenues once relied upon.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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While meeting as the finance committee, the village board approved a recommendation Monday to establish new taxes and fees to fund the village's road and capital improvement projects.

The board is scheduled to make a final vote on the proposed new sources of revenue -- which include a utility tax on electricity, a utility tax on natural gas, a municipal motor fuel tax, a liquor tax and a stormwater utility fee -- at an Oct. 21 meeting.

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Trustee Anna Newell was the only trustee to express complete disapproval of the new taxes.

"There's got to be another way. You've got people who are on limited income; there are people out there who have lost their homes in Hoffman," she said. "I can't say yes to a tax. I understand we have to do it ... but as far as the tax goes, the people are taxed to death. They don't want to pay any more."

According to village officials, the need for new revenue is being driven by the reduction of the general fund, which was the primary source of capital improvement funding before the 2008 recession.

Based on current conditions, there is a minimum need of $4 million to $5 million per year for roadwork, officials said. Hoffman Estates has been using only its motor fuel tax revenues of about $1.2 million per year for the past several years without any help from the general fund.

"We've held the line about as long as we can," said Trustee Gary Pilafas. "You have to recognize at some point when you're at the tipping point, and we're there. Actually, we've been there."

Trustee Gary Stanton said that when he ran for trustee in 2011, the No. 1 issue brought up by residents was the need for road repairs. Two years later, he said he still regularly hears people asking about when the roads will get fixed.

"This seems to be a way that we can get money to start fixing the roads the way we want to do, and the way that our residents want us to do as well. For that, I guess, I lean strongly in favor of voting for these taxes," he said.

Beyond this need, the village also must soon replace vehicles and equipment such as squad cars, snow plows and fire apparatus. Other capital projects that have been postponed include drainage and storm sewer improvements, public building improvements and the purchase of new emergency weather equipment and IT hardware.

Trustee Gayle Vandenbergh said she is participating in the citizens fire academy and she and the other participants recently noticed how much the fire department's apparatus is aging.

"Some of it is in dire need to be replaced, or it will be in the coming years," she said. "It's a matter of public safety, in my opinion, as is the safety of roads. The roads need to be replaced. There's no getting around it."

A utility tax on electricity would raise about $1.9 million annually, about 65 percent of which would come from businesses. The average residential customer would to see an estimated $3.35 per month increase on bills.

"The money this village saved our residents through (electricity) aggregation is more per month, on average, than what we're asking for in new revenue," said Village Manager Jim Norris.

A utility tax on natural gas would generate about $1 million per year, with the average customer paying about $3.21 more per month.

A potential motor fuel tax of 2.5 cents per gallon would generate an estimated $500,000 per year.

The village is also considering a tax on packaged liquor at retail stores, which could bring in between $200,000 and $225,000 annually.

The stormwater utility fee under consideration would ask the average residential owner to pay about $2 per month -- $1.50 for smaller lots and $2.50 for larger ones -- to bring in between $450,000 and $475,000 per year.

Although they are an option, Norris said the staff is not recommending an increase to existing taxes, including those on food and beverages, hotel rooms and real estate transfers.

Mayor William McLeod said he is pleased the village staff found some possibilities that won't affect property taxes.

"The problem we really face is we have eliminated positions, we have cut back on capital programs, but you do reach the point where you actually have to do these things," he said.

Trustee Karen Mills said she wished the village wouldn't have to push through multiple taxes at once, but she also was glad the village's portion of property taxes would remain untouched.

"It's not an easy thing to do," she said. "We didn't ignore the equipment or ignore the roads because we wanted to, it's because we had to, and the time has come now for us to unfortunately make those hard decisions that we're going to have to make in order to fund these."

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