Road repairs prompt Green Oaks to seek first village property tax
Asking voters for more money is never easy, but a Nov. 8 ballot question in Green Oaks represents a reluctant first in the village's 56-year history.
The amount sought is relatively small -- about $93 per year for the owner of a house valued at $300,000 -- but approval by voters would establish the little town's first municipal property tax. While elected officials said they need a consistent and predictable source of money for road repairs, going this route was a tough decision.
"Especially for me," Village President Bernard Wysocki said. "I've been on the board for 30 years, (and) we've tried to make sure we balance the budget and use reserves to deal with problems."
The roads in Green Oaks aren't pitted with axle-breaking potholes, but many are in bad shape and getting worse, officials said. Funding has been short of what's needed to keep pace before roads deteriorate to a point where more expensive reconstruction or repair is required, they said.
"It's always been a source of pride to be able to hold off this long and not tax our residents," said Trustee Dan Sugrue, who chairs the village board's roads committee. "But our backs are against the wall. We don't have an option."
Voters will be asked to authorize a new tax of less than one tenth of 1 percent of assessed property value. The measure would generate about $235,000 annually for road repairs.
The village now spends about $225,000 each season on road maintenance and repair. Funds come mainly from its share of state motor fuel tax and local vehicle sticker fees.
"Either they've been behind or haven't increased or just not been enough" to keep up with the needs, Wysocki said.
"What we tried to do in March is say, `Give us a one-time shot, and we'll do all the roads,'" he added. "This is bare bones."
In the March primary, Green Oaks voters were asked to authorize officials to borrow $18.8 million via bond issues to fix 24 miles -- nearly all local streets -- during a five-year period. For that request, which was soundly defeated, the annual cost to the owner of a house valued at $300,000 would have been $453.
Village officials say they will schedule four information sessions to explain the situation.
"If there was another way at this point to deal with the predicament, we'd do so," Wysocki said of the November ballot measure.
Organized opposition has not been seen, but some pushback to paying more taxes is expected.
"I don't blame them," Wysocki said.
"If I have to go to someone's house to explain it, I'll be happy to do so," he added.
The situation is the topic of a detailed report in the most recent village newsletter. Summaries of responses from 500 people to a road referendum survey show about two-thirds strongly or somewhat agreed the March proposal was too high.
About 60 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed their neighborhood roads needed repair, but only 42 percent said they would rather see a small property tax for road repairs implemented for a longer period of time.
Sales tax would be another revenue source, but because the amounts can vary, it makes planning a challenge, officials said.
While some business projects are in the works, it will be years before they are built, occupied and producing sales tax, according to the village. About $100,000 per year is expected to come from an off-track betting parlor scheduled to open early next year, with the majority dedicated to road repairs.
Trustee Bryan Muskat said many residents don't realize there is no municipal tax and that none of their tax bill goes to the village.