Mt. Prospect looks at fee, tax increases to fund streets

Updated 10/10/2013 2:23 PM
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify information about a possible property tax increase that was discussed as part of a street repair plan.

The cold reality is that Mount Prospect has fallen behind in its road repairs. And the way to cure that is with cold, hard cash. Which means Mount Prospect taxpayers and drivers filling up at village pumps might have to kick in.

At this week's committee of the whole meeting, Finance Director David Erb told the village board that the village's roads cannot be supported by existing revenues. The backlog in street resurfacing is between 11 and 13 miles, he said.

As a result, he and Finance Commission Chairman Vince Grochocinski offered funding alternatives that could mean taking on new debt and increasing sticker and refuse fees, as well as property taxes.

"The bottom line is new funds need to be generated, so that we can get the street program back on track," Erb said.

Mount Prospect residents could see an increase in the vehicle sticker from $36 to $45. Also, depending on what the board decides, the local motor fuel tax could increase from two cents per gallon to four cents or five cents. But the biggest blow would come from the rise in refuse fees from $100 to $243. In addition, the tax levy could increase by 1 percent to help pay for street work.

Erb traced the plan's evolution from its earlier stages in the finance commission, starting with the original concept of raising $2.2 million in new money for the streets fund. However, Erb said, that plan, and another one that was considered, would not have addressed the backlog in street repairs.

Fast forward to Tuesday night's committee of the whole meeting, where Erb presented a "hybrid" plan.

This would involve issuing bonds to raise $5.5 million in new dollars, to be paid back with an average annual debt service of $630,000 paid out over 10 years.

Hiking the existing refuse fee of $100 to $243 would raise an additional $1.85 million annually. The sticker fee increase would raise an extra $350,000. An increase from 2 cents to 5 cents in the motor fuel tax would raise $500,000.

In addition, the plan includes a 6 percent or $615,000 increase in the property tax levy, with about 1 percent of the increase going to streets and the rest used to pay other expenses such as pensions.

Trustee Michael Zadel focusing on the refuse fee hike. " I have a real problem with that increase. That's a very steep increase," he said.

Trustee Paul Hoefert agreed, calling it "a little too massive" and suggesting the village make the increase more gradual, adding, "I think we have a done a good job in certain areas, like the water fund, where we increase it a little bit every year and it's not as painful to people."

He used the example of Metra, which kept fares steady for more than a decade, before stunning commuters with a sudden increase.

"I just think that is hard on people that are trying to manage day to day, week to week, month to month and then all of a sudden have a big increase."

Hoefert also speculated that the extra pennies at the pump might motivate drivers to fill up in other communities.

Trustee A. John Korn called the $9 sticker increase "very reasonable, compared to what some other people are paying," but said he viewed refuse fee as a charge for a service, not as place to obtain tax revenue.

Mayor Arlene Juracek had her own analogy for the plan.

"I kind of liken this to squeezing every last drop of toothpaste out of the toothpaste tube. And we have squeezed and squeezed and squeezed … and there is nothing left to squeeze out of it." Now, she said, it is time to buy a new tube of toothpaste.

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