Yes to Liberyville sales tax referendum

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/9/2020 5:08 PM

As far as village leaders see it, voters in Libertyville face a simple choice March 17: crumbling streets or slightly higher prices on some of the items they purchase in town.

A referendum on the primary ballot asks whether the village should establish a 1% sales tax that officials say would bring in an additional $2 million a year to fund street repairs and maintenance.


Before we address the sales tax, we should note that the village initially proposed -- then quickly rescinded -- a ballot measure seeking home rule authority. That was a wise move. Similar measures have failed by large margins recently in other suburbs, and home rule would give village leaders broader taxing authority and residents less say over how it's used.

In comparison, the sales-tax proposal seems reasonable. The need for road improvements is real. Libertyville voters in 2012 approved a $25 million bond issue to repair roads, but those funds are now spent, and about 60% of village streets remain unaddressed, officials say.

Proponents say the sales tax is a fairer option than increasing property taxes, since it spreads the burden to visitors as well as residents. And, they note, the tax would not be imposed on groceries, medicine and auto sales.

To make a new sales tax more palatable, village officials say if it's approved they would eliminate the 1% Places for Eating Tax in place since October 2016, avoiding double-taxation on diners.

Finally, it's worth noting that even with the addition of a 1% tax, the total sales tax on items purchased in Libertyville would be no higher than in several Lake County communities, including Mundelein, Lincolnshire and Gurnee.

Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, whether it be to the county when property taxes come due or at the store when making a purchase. But given Libertyville's legitimate needs and the shared burden of a consumption tax, the proposed 1% sales tax is a fair compromise. Voters should say yes.

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