MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- Many Machesney Park residents are still fuming over the creation of a 5 percent utility tax that would help fund infrastructure and the local police department.
We caught up with one of the trustees who voted “no” last night. Jerry Bolin says he wants the voters to have a chance to voice their opinion.
He already asked staff members to draft a resolution to create a referendum. It's likely too late for any measure to appear on the April ballot, but if it were to come up this summer or fall, it would give the board a chance to revisit the issue.
MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- The village board in Machesney Park has approved a new five percent tax hike on utilities.
The new rate applies to gas and electricity bills and costs "average" households around $8 a month. The tax will likely bring in an extra $950,000 in revenue. 55% will be used to repair roads. The other 45% will be used to hire a new police officer and buy two new police cars in 2013. The remainder of the money will be put toward job creation and infrastructure building.
The vote was extremely controversial. More than 50 residents came to the meeting opposing the tax. Most residents wanted to be able to vote on the proposal via a city-wide referendum. Village Mayor Tom Strickland, and board members Tim Gentry and Jerry Bolin voted "no" on the tax. Residents complained they have already voted for increased sales tax to improve roads, and the road improvements that have already been made, like the roundabout leading to the mall, were wasteful.
The village passed a 1% tax increase five years ago to cover road reconstruction costs, but the village administrator says that hasn't brought in enough money to meet the village's needs.
Board members who voted yes say the extra money is essential so the Village doesn't far further behind.
There is a low-income rebate available. If you're an individual who makes less than $30,000 you can get up to $150 of the new tax refunded. You can apply for the rebate every three months. The low-income threshold was raised by an amendment to make more people eligible for the tax relief.
Board member Jerry Bolin says he will try to get the utility tax on the April ballot as a referendum, but procedurally, it's unclear if that's even possible. It will undoubtedly be expensive.
On average, we're talking 8 dollars a month for how much extra you'd have to pay for your gas and electricity bills. Village officials say the 5% increase would raise nearly a million dollars extra a year, but how that money would be used in the bigger issue. Officials say the majority of the money would be used to repair roads, but some residents say enough already.
"Taxation without representation is how this country began and while we have elected representation, that representation has to communicate to us what they're doing,” said Bruce Jacobsen, a resident of Machesney Park.
The money might also be used to hire Village police, replace squad cars and build infrastructure near I-90, but Village President Tom Strickland says it's to open ended. The vote is coming up tonight at 6. 23 news will be there to bring you the latest.
Low income residents would qualify for a rebate on the tax, up to $150 dollars. At least two board members, including the Village President say they'll vote against it.