Road repairs, sales tax, clerk proposal among Lake County ballot issues

What voters can expect on March ballot

  • Fox Lake firefighter Josh Wigutow walks in front of station No. 2. Fox Lake voters in March will decide if the village should join the Fox Lake Fire Protection District or continue contracting with the agency for service.

      Fox Lake firefighter Josh Wigutow walks in front of station No. 2. Fox Lake voters in March will decide if the village should join the Fox Lake Fire Protection District or continue contracting with the agency for service. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein voters will decide if the village clerk should be an appointed position or continue to be elected.

    Mundelein voters will decide if the village clerk should be an appointed position or continue to be elected. Courtesy of Village of Mundelein

 
 

Should Fox Lake create a 1 percent sales tax?

Should Mundelein's village clerk be appointed or elected?

Should Green Oaks borrow millions for road repairs?

These are just a few of the questions Lake County voters will be asked in the March 15 primary election.

Eight referendums are set to appear on various communities' ballots. For a complete list, visit the Lake County clerk's website, countyclerk.lakecountyil.gov.

Fox Lake sales tax

Fox Lake officials have proposed adding a 1 percent sales tax on goods purchased in the village. It would bring the total sales tax in town to 8 percent, which Village Administrator Anne Marrin said is typical for that part of the county.

The tax would raise $1 million annually for Fox Lake, Marrin said. The cash would be used on street repairs and other infrastructure projects, as well as hiring staff for the police department or other village departments, she said.

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"We're looking at every department," Marrin said. "We have so many things it could be used for."

Unlike a property tax, a local sales tax wouldn't merely hit residents' wallets. Visitors and tourists stopping to buy gasoline or merchandise while driving through the area would share the burden, Marrin said.

"It's a pass-through tax," she said.

The tax wouldn't apply to certain foods, drugs, medical appliances, cars or boats. It wouldn't apply to purchases at local bars or restaurants, either.

Fox Lake fire service

Fox Lake voters also will decide if the village should join the Fox Lake Fire Protection District.

Unlike a municipal fire department that's a division of a village government and is funded by that government, the district is an independent agency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The district also includes parts of Round Lake, McHenry, Ingleside, Lakemoor, Spring Grove and Volo, as well as nearby unincorporated areas. Fox Lake contracts with the fire district for firefighting and ambulance services.

The proposal on the ballot would end that relationship and put the entire village within the fire district.

If voters back the proposal, village and district leaders no longer would have to negotiate contracts every few years.

"It takes politics out of it," Mayor Donny Schmit said.

With the village no longer including fire service in the annual budget, Fox Lake residents would begin paying taxes to fire district.

The owner of a house valued at $200,000 would pay about $138 in taxes to the district the first year, Chief Ron Hoehne said.

If voters reject the measure, the current contracted relationship would continue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Green Oaks roads

Green Oaks officials have proposed borrowing $18.8 million for a massive street-improvement project in the tiny village.

Approximately 25 miles of roadway would be repaired -- about 90 percent of the streets in town.

The work would occur in stages over eight years to prevent a major traffic disruption, Mayor Bernard Wysocki said.

Green Oaks officials have never undertaken a comprehensive road repair program. But a study of the village's roads showed their quality is declining, Wysocki said.

Public forums on the issue were held this past fall.

Several funding options were discussed, including the creation of a permanent real estate or utility tax and charging car owners for vehicle stickers.

Officials said borrowing the money is the best option.

"Without a tax, we don't have the ability to do it right," Wysocki said.

If voters approve the plan, the owner of a typical house valued at $300,000 will pay about $453 in taxes to the village the first year.

Once the loans are paid off in 20 years, the tax will disappear, Wysocki said.

If voters reject the plan, patching and pothole repairs will continue, he said.

"We'll just keep on cutting and pasting, just like we have been doing," Wysocki said.

More information about the plan, including a copy of the slideshow shared at last year's public forums, can be found on the village website, greenoaks.org.

Mundelein clerk

Mundelein residents will decide if the village clerk should continue to be an elected post.

Historically, Mundelein's clerk has been chosen by voters every four years. Duties include taking notes at village board meetings and handling various paperwork-related tasks at village hall.

As an elected public official, the clerk is answerable to no one on a day-to-day basis. Professional training isn't required, either.

The clerk used to be a full-time job, but it's been part-time since 2005. The clerk earns $9,012 annually, the same as trustees.

If the effort is successful, the job likely would go to an existing staffer, Assistant Village Administrator Michael Flynn said. The change could save a few thousand dollars a year.

Katy Timmerman, the village clerk since 2013, has said she supports the change.

Her term ends in May 2017, and that's when an appointed clerk would take over if the voters support the proposal.

Success isn't certain, however. Voters rejected an identical proposal in 2013.

Newport fire service

Officials with the Wadsworth-based Newport Township Fire Protection District have proposed increasing the tax rate so they can buy new vehicles.

"The Newport fleet has become old, and the 20-year replacement plan is not able to be followed with our current levied tax funds," Fire Chief Mark Kirschhoffer said. The immediate plan is to replace a 27-year-old fire engine and a 10-year-old ambulance, Kirschhoffer said.

The district's budget has been sapped by the recent opening of a second station, he said.

If voters approve the proposal, the owner of a typical house valued at $200,000 would pay about $87 more in taxes to the fire district the first year.

Voters rejected a similar proposal in April 2015.

The district serves portions of Wadsworth, Old Mill Creek, Beach Park and unincorporated Lake County.

And the rest

Three additional referendums are on the ballot.

Highwood residents will be asked if the local fire department should shut down.

Voters in Highland Park's North Shore School District 12 will be asked if officials should borrow $198 million to renovate and reconfigure school buildings.

Winthrop Harbor School District 1 officials have proposed borrowing $6 million for repairs at Westfield School.

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