Mundelein officials weighing possible tax increase for roads

  • Mundelein officials want to increase the annual budget for road projects, but they haven't decided where the cash should come from.

      Mundelein officials want to increase the annual budget for road projects, but they haven't decided where the cash should come from. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/15/2015 10:23 AM

Mundelein officials want to double the money they spend on road repairs annually, but they're not sure how to raise the cash.

A property tax increase, a sales-tax increase and the creation of local taxes on gasoline or utility services were among the suggestions made during a public meeting at village hall this week.

 

Few of the board members supported increasing taxes, however.

"Raising taxes on people is never the answer to let's find more money," Trustee Dawn Abernathy said during the committee-of-the-whole discussion Monday night.

The village spends about $2 million annually on road resurfacing and other street repairs. Officials said they'd like to get that figure closer to $4 million.

The annual roads budget has been about $2 million for more than a decade.

Increasing the budget for street repairs by 2020 was among the proposals included in an administrative memo on the village's future needs. The document is available for public review on the village's website, mundelein.org.

Despite her aversion to a tax increase, Abernathy suggested letting voters decide by putting a tax-increase plan on a future ballot.

A referendum would be fair, she said, because "they're the ones that are going to have to carry that burden."

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"Maybe they'd be willing to do this," Abernathy said.

Trustee Dakotah Norton, who pledged to do something about the village's crumbling roads when he campaigned for office this past spring, suggested increasing the village's sales tax.

Abernathy quickly blasted that idea, saying it would drive consumers to stores in other communities.

Trustee Ray Semple pointed out the village doesn't make residents buy annual car stickers or pet tags, nor has it allowed red-light cameras to be installed as revenue generators.

Of all the tax options, Semple was most open to creating a tax on electricity or other basic utilities.

"(That's) something worthwhile to look into," he said.

Mayor Steve Lentz suggested the board consider implementing a utility tax, too.

Lentz said he doesn't think it will scare away businesses, which typically use more power or natural gas than residents. Other towns have utility taxes, he said, and businesses haven't fled those communities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If a tax increase is needed to pay for more road repairs, Trustee Holly Kim said she'd prefer to boost property taxes because the rate and amount would be delineated on tax bills.

"It is the most transparent," she said. "It's a line item. You can see what it is for."

Trustee Kerston Russell opposed any kind of tax increase.

"If I had the choice between paying (more) taxes and driving down bumpy roads for a while, I'd probably drive down bumpy roads for a while," he said.

Trustee Bill Rekus also opposed a tax increase. He said he believes the village's revenue from sales tax and other sources will continue to increase, and that money could pay for additional road projects.

Rekus specifically opposed putting a referendum on the ballot, saying people don't have enough information to make a decision.

Norton and Semple said they'd support letting residents decide if taxes should be increased to pay for road repairs.

Semple suggested putting a question on the November 2016 ballot. Voter turnout should be higher at that time because it's a presidential election, he said.

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