About a year ago at this time, the North Riverside Village Board dipped its toe into the pool of tax levy extensions. Having avoided that end of the pool for more than 20 years, trustees approached it with trepidation.
But last summer they decided to get up on that diving board and spring into action. However, late last year, when they got to the end of the diving board and looked over the edge into the deep water, they backed away.
The reason being given is that trustees had also decided to seek a referendum to fund its pension obligations. They ended up not doing that, either, so in 2012 the village board is back where it was a year ago – cautiously inching toward the end of the springboard.
It’s time to stop acting like frightened grade-schoolers on this issue.
The village of North Riverside is not the residents’ daddy.
For too long, the village operated that way. It paid for your water, your garbage collection, your vehicle sticker. Sales taxes, it was deemed, obviated a need to extend the property tax levy year after year.
A municipality provides certain things – police, a fire department, public works services and, in modern times, recreation opportunities. All of it costs money and the people living in the community are the ones largely responsible for paying for it.
As North Riverside’s retail sector boomed from the mid-1970s on, there was a sense that residents were off the hook, that sales taxes would pay the bills. By and large, that’s what happened. Sales taxes also paid for a host of other things, like lifetime health insurance for longtime village employees and their families.
And when the economy collapsed in 2008 and suddenly the bills couldn’t be paid, the village was caught short. It contracted its expenses, rid itself of the lifetime health insurance perk (for employees hired going forward, anyway) and began increasing the amount of money residents pay toward water delivery and garbage pickup.
Yet, some trustees are still reluctant to say to residents, “You must pay for the water you use and the garbage collection you require – the full amount.”
And, despite microscopic village property tax revenues, some are still reluctant to extend the property tax levy.
It’s a mindset that has to end. Police officers cost money. A fire department is expensive. Sales taxes are unpredictable. But property taxes are not. No one likes paying more than their fair share in taxes and fees for services.
North Riverside residents have gotten away with paying far less for village services than they receive. Recent years have shown that’s an unsustainable way of approaching village finances. It’s time for that way of doing the village’s business to change.
Take the leap.