Gilberts says no to tax increase for fiber optics
Voters in Gilberts rejected a tax increase to build a villagewide fiber optic infrastructure.
Unofficial tallies showed about 81 percent of "No" votes from 682 ballots cast out of a possible 4,002 registered voters in Gilberts.
The referendum asked voters whether or not village officials could borrow $5 million for a bond investment to build the cable infrastructure. The fiber optics network would have set the village apart by better meeting technology needs for its residents and business owners, village officials said. They pointed out that fewer than 90 communities across the U.S. have full fiber access.
The tax increase would have been about 1.8 percent on most tax bills, or about $150 yearly for a $250,000 home. The cost would have been spread to the village's 2,400 or so taxable properties, and the cost would have decreased if more homes were built.
The village wanted to piggy back on the plans of developer Troy Mertz, who is building a fiber network for his 1,134-acre development, The Conservancy, which ultimately aims to add 985 homes on northwest corner of Galligan and Freeman roads.
"The voters have spoken," Mertz said. "It will still be an amenity that will be in The Conservancy and I'm glad it will be something to differentiate our product."
It was hoped that with a fiber network in place, Comcast and other carriers would have been able to enter into agreements with the village to provide high-speed broadband service to residents, who currently have access only to AT&T U-verse and Mediacom.
Mertz still plans to go ahead connect The Conservancy's planned fiber optic network to municipal and public safety buildings plus Gilberts Elementary School, saying it was built into his development plans.
"The goal of village was always to getting fiber to our industrial areas," said Gilberts Village President Rick Zirk. "As a community, we asked the rest of the village, 'Do you want the same service and the same options that the new part of town and the industrial park?' And it seems that they don't want to pay for it."
The village had been working to find a way to build a fiber-optics network for several years. About two years ago, the company i3 planned to build a fiber network in Gilberts, but it has since folded.
Elena Ferrarin contributed reporting to this article.