Warrenville eyes new taxes to fund roads

 
 
Updated 6/24/2011 8:57 AM

Three new local taxes would be created, one increased and another tax redistributed, under a proposal before the Warrenville City Council to help pay for road repairs and other needed capital improvements.

If approved later this summer, the multifaceted tax plan could generate enough new revenue to address a projected $1 million deficit in the city's capital improvement program.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're trying to look ahead and make sure that everything the community has invested in is taken care of," Mayor David Brummel said Thursday. "We need new revenue in order to make that happen."

The proposal, which will be reviewed by the council during a special Monday night meeting, calls for the city to enact a 3 percent natural gas utility tax, a 2 percent electric utility tax and a 2-cents-per-gallon local gasoline tax.

In addition to the three new taxes, Warrenville would increase the rate of its telecommunications tax from 4 percent to 6 percent. Finally, the city's hotel-motel tax grant program would be suspended and its $200,000 in annual funding instead would be used for capital expenditures.

While Warrenville has the authority to enact all the changes without voter approval because it has home-rule powers, officials say a final decision won't be made until residents have had enough time to provide input. In addition to Monday night's council session, a meeting to gather public input already is scheduled for July 14.

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"It's certainly not a done deal," Brummel said. "We're willing to listen to the community and see if they have an alternative. What is necessary is we have to address the problem."

Most of the roughly $1.9 million a year Warrenville spends on capital projects is devoted to roads, sidewalks, storm sewers and streetlights. About $288,000 of the total is set aside for building equipment and vehicles for the police and public works departments.

In 2000, Warrenville adopted a capital infrastructure plan that established a 15-year maintenance cycle for local roads. However, the sources of revenue that officials identified at the time haven't kept up with increasing needs.

"Of course, we have more roads now, and everything is more expensive," Brummel said. "So the revenue stream that was identified early on when that program was passed is not enough."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Warrenville was using money from fines generated from its two red-light cameras along Butterfield Road to help pay for road repairs. But both cameras have been removed because of construction work on Butterfield.

In the meantime, city officials say they don't want to postpone capital projects too long.

"You can't let the streets fall apart," City Administrator John Coakley said. "They have a life. And once that's done, you start undermining the base, which causes more damage and the (repair) costs go up. You don't save any money by delaying capital projects."

Still, officials are expecting the tax plan to generate a great deal of public feedback.

"Nobody wants to pay more taxes," Coakley said. "Everyone does like to have their streets repaired and taken care of. But nobody, including me, wants to pay more."

Brummel said suspending the hotel-motel grant program would be "painful" because the grant dollars are awarded to various groups for local events, including the farmers market and Concerts in the Commons.

The mayor said representatives from several groups already have told him they want to see the annual grant program continue.

"But they also understand that when times are tight, you have to pay more attention to your core responsibilities," Brummel said, "which is what we're trying to do."