After months of kicking around proposals to increase revenues for general operations, Brookfield’s village board decided July 26 to take a pass on most of those options. Instead, trustees last week agreed to deep-six a proposed restaurant tax and increases in liquor license and business licenses.

Instead, on Aug. 9, the village board is expected to vote on a proposed utility tax for water use. Illinois statute allows municipalities to impose a 5-percent tax on any agency in the business of distributing water.

In essence, according to Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper, the village would impose the tax on itself and pass the cost along to residential and commercial water customers in the village.

The tax, which would be applied to water use alone and not for sewers or garbage collection, is expected to cost the average water customer in Brookfield $15 per year, according to Cooper, depending on usage. The estimated $160,000 collected by the tax could then be transferred to the village’s general operating fund.

If approved, the tax would begin to be imposed starting in October so that all water customers in Brookfield would be billed for the new tax once in 2010.

No property tax referendum in Nov.

Trustees also agreed that they would not move ahead with a property tax referendum on the November ballot, a move supported by only one trustee, Michael Towner.

“My deal is that instead of hitting on all these little subjects, go out for a $1.5 million tax increase, state our case, give it to the public and they decide,” Towner said, after rattling off a laundry list of revenue items that continue to come in under expectations, from sales taxes to utility taxes to the village’s share of state income taxes.

But the idea of putting a property tax increase to a vote, something that trustees also shot down late last year, had little appeal for anyone else on the board.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of residents in town,” said Trustee Cathy Colgrass Edwards. “I have yet heard one say to me this would work. They have to live within their means; we should do the best we can also.”

All of the trustees agreed the village needs more revenue to fund services, but they were also reluctant to move on proposed taxes that would have affected business owners. In March, the board discussed the possibility of imposing a 1-percent sales tax on all restaurants and bars in the village. The tax would have brought in an estimated $100,000 per year, according to village staff. Trustees also considered increasing fees for business licenses and liquor licenses.

The Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and local business owners protested the ideas as hurtful to business.

In June, President Michael Garvey pulled a proposed 3-percent amusement tax, which would have hit Brookfield Zoo particularly hard, off the table after a spirited protest from zoo officials, employees, volunteers and members. That tax would have brought in an estimated $500,000 annually, village officials said.

Officials from the village and Brookfield Zoo continue to negotiate how the village can recoup revenue from the zoo for services it delivers to the national tourist attraction – from the water it uses, to its reliance on the village’s infrastructure, police and fire response and the use of village streets.

Instead, trustees voted to raise garbage collection fees, the revenue for which will go directly to an enterprise fund and not the general operating fund, and impose a hotel/motel tax, which can be used only to promote tourism.