Riverside voters will be faced with a referendum question in November, asking them to approve more than $2 million in general obligation bonds to pave streets.
The bond issuance, however, would not result in tax bills increasing, say officials, because the debt would be replacing existing debt that’s about to retire.
“It’s important for residents to understand that the referendum would be revenue-neutral in terms of property tax bills,” said Village President Ben Sells at the village board’s June 5 meeting.
The exact wording of the referendum question still needs to be worked out by the village’s attorneys, but village trustees on June 5 all agreed that the village should move ahead with plans for a ballot question on Nov. 4.
The village must submit the referendum question to the Cook County Clerk’s Office by Aug. 18 in order for it to appear on the ballot. Trustees will vote to officially approve the ballot initiative at their next meeting, which is scheduled for June 19 at the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
In April the village’s engineering firm, Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd., submitted a report on street conditions in Riverside, which was discussed by the village board in May.
The report outlined a 10-year street improvement program that combined resurfacing projects and ongoing street maintenance. The report also rated street conditions and set out a schedule for repaving roads.
In all, the program calls for Riverside to spend about $820,000 annually in order to maintain its roads in good condition.
The village alone doesn’t have the capacity for that kind of funding. Riverside taps two sources of annual revenue for street maintenance: motor fuel tax funds and a 1-percent non-home-rule sales tax. Combined, those revenue streams bring in about $460,000 per year.
As a result, in order to close the difference, the village needs another funding source to adequately address street improvements.
In 2004, the village decided to issue $2.06 million in bonds for that purpose. And, as is being proposed in 2014, those bonds replaced one issued previously, so that the debt issuance was revenue neutral.
The referendum to issue the bonds was overwhelmingly approved, with about 80 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of the measure.
The only difference this time around is that, due to a recently improved bond rating and expected low interest rates, Riverside officials believe they may be able to issue in excess of 2.3 million in bonds, which would be paid off over 10 years. The annual debt service for the bonds is estimated to cost the village about $250,000.
In addition, the village may be able to pair sewer improvements with the street projects. Earlier this year, Burke Engineering completed a sewer sufficiency study that outlined millions of dollars in improvements that would increase storm sewer capacity and decrease stress on the village’s combined sewer system.
Some of those projects could be completed concurrently with the street improvements and paid for out of cash reserves in the village’s water and sewer fund.
“The possibility of pairing these projects with the sewer projects also will allow us to use some sewer money, if the street is impacted by the sewer repair,” said Sells. “So it’s very likely that, under the bond scenario, we can actually do everything our engineers have recommended over the 10-year [street] sufficiency study in its entirety.”