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posted: 10/29/2013 5:30 AM

Long Grove may seek its first property tax

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Long Grove officials say they plan to put a question on the March primary election ballot that could result in the village's first municipal property tax.

The new revenue would pay for needed work on more heavily traveled village roads.

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Village officials say the dedicated tax is needed because traditional revenue sources, such as building permits, haven't kept pace with expenses. The village has fallen behind in road repairs and other work and needs a more reliable funding source to get on track, according to village leaders.

Long Grove's total recommended infrastructure cost in an average year is about $3 million, mostly for road paving, patching and snow removal. There is a $1.4 million gap between what's recommended and available revenue, officials say.

The work on main thoroughfares has shifted to patching from resurfacing, Village Manager David Lothspeich said.

"It's kind of a piecemeal, Band-Aid approach rather than taking care of things as they should be," he said.

After cutting costs, examining options and discussing the situation at four town hall meetings over more than a year, the village board has determined a dedicated tax -- the first in village history -- is the only way to bridge the gap.

"Going for a tax referendum was the last thing any of us wanted to do," said Village President Angie Underwood. "It's been a difficult decision the board has had to make."

The board this month directed the village attorney to prepare an ordinance to put the question on the ballot. However, the funding sought will apply only to thoroughfares -- public roads serving more than one subdivision.

"What they're still deliberating is how that question will be worded," Lothspeich said. "They're trying to make it as defined as possible for the residents, but there are limitations of what you can do."

The village has about 31 miles of public roads. About two-thirds are thoroughfares, while the rest are specific to a given subdivision.

The funding need for thoroughfares is about $900,000, Lothspeich said, and would cost the owner of a $750,000 home an extra $350 per year. That's about 1.6 percent of their total annual tax bill of $21,705, he added.

Funding all the work would cost that homeowner an extra $550 per year.

Underwood said the village will craft a separate policy for non-thoroughfare roads.

"I don't think it's anyone's intention on the board to abandon those roads and leave them high and dry," she said.

There is precedent in Lake County for villages seeking voter approval for roadwork.

In March 2012, voters in Kildeer agreed to allow the village to raise its portion of the sales tax to pay for road repairs and related work. Voters in Libertyville agreed to a property tax hike for the same purpose.

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