Streets are expensive. They are so expensive, in fact, that most towns choose to ignore the crumbling pavement until the pockmarked stretches of asphalt or concrete can be ignored no longer.
When that happens, streets and their deplorable conditions, become the center of political debates that can result in quick fixes and long-term debt without a source of revenue to pay it back.
Infrastructure is a perpetual issue that needs to be addressed perpetually, but the expense of doing so is very difficult?”especially in non-home rule communities like Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside?”when the ability for a municipality to raise money to pay for those improvements is so limited.
That’s why we feel it’s important that voters approve referendums in all three villages to allow them to collect 1 percent more in sales tax for items purchased there. By state statute, funds collected by the municipalities must be used for infrastructure or property tax relief.
In the case of Riverside and Brookfield, the referendum questions make completely clear that the money will be used to improve roads in the two villages.
In Riverside, the money will be targeted at roads that need more than simple resurfacing. That solves the dilemma of either being unable to be addressed in a timely manner or deferring other scheduled street resurfacing projects.
In Brookfield, the additional sales tax is slated to be used to pay back debt the village will incur?”to the tune of millions?”to continue street resurfacing there.
In North Riverside, the additional sales tax will be used to prevent a future property tax increase to fund police and fire pensions to the levels the state has mandated.
While no one wants to pay yet another tax, we feel this 1 percent sales tax is the least painful and easiest way for each village to address these ongoing issues. Residents will not be footing the bill by themselves. Visitors to the villages?”which include such economic engines as the North Riverside Park Mall and Brookfield Zoo?”will also be paying to help these vital programs.
We also feel that in the vast majority, if not all, cases, the sales tax increase will not have a detrimental effect on local businesses. We do not believe that Brookfield residents will be driven to shop miles away simply because a $50 dinner will cost $50.50 in Brookfield or that a $300 auto repair bill will cost $303.
The tax will not be levied on food from grocery stores, drugs and medical supplies and the sale of titled property. Those most basic essentials and big-ticket items are exempt from the tax increase.
We don’t expect the sales tax to be a panacea for all of the infrastructure issues facing the villages. But this is an appropriate and strategic way to begin addressing them.