Tax hikes, annexation, advisory questions among Northwest suburban referendums
The Palatine Rural Fire Protection District wants more money for equipment and station upgrades. Deer Park wants to hike its sales tax to offset losses from the pandemic. And the Prospect Heights Public Library wants to expand its footprint.
Those are among the referendums voters in the Northwest suburbs will decide in the April 6 election.
Here's a look at the questions on the ballot:
Palatine Rural bond issue
The Palatine Rural fire district is seeking voter approval to issue $2.2 million in bonds to fund capital costs such as the replacement of firefighting apparatus nearing the end of its service life, Chief Rich May said. The district also needs funding for upgrades to its more than 20-year-old station, including a new roof for the apparatus bay, he said.
The bonds would be repaid over 10 years. If voters approve the measure, the owner of a $400,000 home could expect to pay about $60.48 more per year in property taxes to the district. That increase would rise to $76.92 more per year for the owner of a $500,000 home, and about $93.48 more annually for the owner of a $600,000 home.
Aaron Del Mar, president of the fire district's board of trustees, said he recognizes the need for the expenditures, but voted against putting the question on the ballot. The financial impacts of the pandemic make it better to wait a year, he said.
Still, Del Mar said he plans to vote in favor of the referendum.
"I think each person in the taxing district should review it," he said.
This is the first referendum the fire district has had seeking additional tax revenue since November 2014.
Deer Park sales tax
Deer Park officials will ask voters to increase the municipal sales tax by half a percentage point for three years.
Village officials say they need the hike to make up for the decline in tax revenue during the pandemic. Officials say the village expects to collect about $2 million in sales taxes for the fiscal year ending April 30, down from $2.65 million in 2019.
Deer Park's overall sales tax rate is 7.5%, so the rate would increase to 8% for the three years before returning to the current rate, if voters approve the measure.
The increase would result in an additional 50 cents of tax for every $100 spent, which could net Deer Park an extra $700,000 annually, officials said.
This is the second time in three years Deer Park officials have sought to increase the sales tax rate. Voters approved a quarter percentage point bump in 2018. Deer Park does not levy a property tax.
If voters reject the new plan, spending cuts will be needed to avoid running a deficit, officials said.
Prospect Heights Library annexation
After discovering several properties near the intersection of Rand Road and Thomas Street aren't served by any library, Prospect Heights Public Library officials are seeking voter approval to annex them into the district.
Most of the 14 properties are commercial, but they also include three single-family homes west of the Thorntons gas station and another residential structure that's been subdivided into multiple apartment units, library Executive Director Alex Todd said.
The annexation would require a majority of yes votes on two identical referendums -- one on the ballots of those within the area to be annexed, and the other on existing district residents' ballots.
The law requiring the annexation to be done by referendum is relatively new and some questions remain, such as what would happen if no one in the tiny annexation area votes or if their votes result in a tie, Todd said.
The residential properties have Arlington Heights mailing addresses but lie within the city of Prospect Heights, making the district the only public library that can do this, he added.
Other commercial properties in the annexation area include Aldi, Zen Leaf, Carquest Auto Parts, Village CycleSport, and Route 12 Rentals, Todd said. The annexation is estimated to bring the library district roughly $27,000 more in property tax per year.
Hoffman Estates advisory questions
Hoffman Estates officials are asking voters to weigh in on three advisory referendum questions seeking input on street lighting and whether new commercial buildings should be required to install bicycle racks and charging stations for electric vehicles.
The exact questions are:
• "Should the Village install streetlights on collector streets in the Village subdivisions that have no streetlights?"
• "Should the Village require bicycle racks at all new commercial buildings?"
• "Should the Village require electric car charging stations for new commercial buildings?"
Though the three referendums are advisory rather than binding, Mayor Bill McLeod said the village board intends to put significant weight on the public input it receives from them.
• Staff writer Russell Lissau contributed to this report.