Brookfield’s largest single taxpayer has announced that he’s mounting a campaign against a proposed referendum to increase sales tax in the village by 1 percent. Steven Campbell, a Riverside resident who owns a number of commercial and residential properties in Brookfield, said he’s ordered 500 anti-tax signs and will begin putting them in windows of businesses and on lawns throughout the village in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, he’s spreading the anti-sales tax gospel to business owners in the village, and urging people to vote against the tax, which, if successful, would steer money toward street improvement projects.

“I think it’s a stupid idea,” Campbell said. “I think it’ll drive people out of town. It’s one more little thing being done to challenge the business community.”

In January, the Brookfield village board voted to put a referendum question on the March 21 ballot calling for a 1-percent sales tax on retail sales, which would be used for debt service on bonds sold for street projects in 2006.

According to the state statute that allows non-home rule municipalities like Brookfield to impose the tax via referendum, an additional 1 percent sales tax would be charged to retail sales, excluding food from grocery stores, drugs and medical supplies and titled property such as vehicles, boats, etc.

In addition, the state statute requires that the money collected from the tax be used to fund infrastructure projects or for property tax relief.

“I offered the board to come up with alternatives to pay for infrastructure,” said Village President Michael Garvey. “This was preferable to raising property taxes.”

According to financial projections previously submitted by the board’s financial advisor, a 1-percent sales tax could bring in over $400,000 per year, which could be used to pay the debt service on a bond issue up to $3.8 million.

Forums scheduled

In order to spread its message, village staff will hold three public forums at village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave., on the sales-tax increase for both residents and business owners in coming weeks. The first forum will be on Monday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m., just before the village’s board meeting. There will also be forums on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, March 11 at 9 a.m.

“My concern is misinformation, whether it’s intentional or otherwise,” Garvey said. “These will be strictly informational, and members of the village staff will be there to offer information as to the facts and purpose of the referendum.”

While consumers?”both Brookfield residents and visitors to the village?”will have to pay the extra tax, business owners in the village are split on the idea of a new tax. While some say the tax won’t affect them greatly, others say it’s something that will make businesses in the village less competitive.

“Being a retailer, everyone is buying on the Internet, and this gives them another reason to do that,” said Patrick Sheridan, owner of A Sound Education, a musical instrument store at 9433 Ogden Ave., which has been open for five years.

Likewise, Tony Scola, owner of Carstar Scola Collision Center at 9110 Ogden Ave., which specializes in auto body work, was skeptical of the new tax.

“Don’t they have other ways of raising the revenue?” Scola asked. “Think of all the taxes we pay?”sales tax, federal tax, FICA, Social Security, property tax. It’s hard for consumers to see where all that money goes. To pass on another 1-percent? I’d like to see it not happen.”

Other business owners seemed OK with the tax proposal. Bob Fakhouri, owner of Phoenix Liquor at 8814 Ogden Ave., said that as long as the money is earmarked for street repair, he doesn’t oppose the tax.

Jeff Wahl at Hollywood Motors, 3637 Woodside Ave., strongly opposed the tax because he initially thought it would affect motorcycle sales. While his stance softened after learning that the tax wouldn’t be levied on those sales, he was against the idea.

“I don’t think it’s a really great thing to be doing,” Wahl said. “You still have other communities around you, and you have to stay competitive. You can buy in Brookfield, or you can buy in LaGrange.”

“It’s better than raising property taxes,” Fakhouri said, who noted that a good part of his business comes from people living outside of Brookfield. “Brookfield needs it.”

Eric Wahlstrom, owner of the Roy Wahlstrom Co., which specializes in storm window replacement, said that most consumers don’t consider sales tax when deciding where to shop.

“It’s still a matter of convenience,” Wahlstrom said. “If the overall price is competitive, people don’t look at the sales tax.

“If it helps to accomplish better infrastructure for our village, it’s not too bad a thing.”