Brookfield residents can expect to be confronted with a referendum question asking to raise property taxes next spring — from the village of Brookfield.
On Monday night, village officials rolled out a plan to ask residents for an additional $2.5 million annually, which would be used in perpetuity to sustain a road construction program.
“I do believe we are at the point where we’ve taken it as far as we can on street repairs,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “It’s not only needed, but it allows the village to take the next step forward.”
The additional tax revenue would be used, at first, to kick start residential side street improvements and then be used to maintain a 20-year replacement cycle for all residential side streets, according to Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who unveiled the plan at the village board’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night.
The bottom line for taxpayers, according to Sbiral’s presentation, is that the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay approximately $400 more per year in property taxes to the village of Brookfield.
But the measure would have to be approved by a majority of Brookfield voters during the March 15, 2016 presidential primary election.
“It’s a major investment, a major investment in the future,” Sbiral said. “I think this is a prudent amount that puts us on solid ground moving forward.”
The money is needed, said Sbiral, because the village does not have the funds to keep up with necessary street improvements right now. The village in the past decade or so has focused its attention on improving its arterial streets, such as Prairie Avenue, Maple Avenue and Grand Boulevard.
Those projects were heavily subsidized by grant funding available from the federal government. However, residential side streets don’t qualify for such grants and other sources of funding — such as motor fuel taxes and the village’s 1 percent sales tax — do not generate enough revenue for the village to sustain a comprehensive road improvement program.
Motor fuel revenues amount to about $1 million per year, said Sbiral, and about half of that amount is used to fund day-to-day street maintenance, which public works employees do throughout the village each year.
The 1 percent sales tax is being used to pay the debt service on bonds issued in 2006 for residential street improvements. That debt won’t be paid off until 2026.
With the equalized assessed valuation of property in the village, particularly commercial property, continuing to decline, there is less property tax revenue available to the village, said Sbiral.
As a result, there is no money at present to fund any sort of road improvements in the village in 2016, he noted.
In order to keep up with road improvements, said Sbiral, the village needs about $2 million annually. Otherwise, he said, roads will deteriorate to a point where they will need to be reconstructed rather than simply resurfaced, which is more expensive in the long run.
“We’ve been kind of living paycheck to paycheck, and the village falls further behind each year, and it makes it a little more difficult to catch up,” Sbiral said.
If the referendum is successful, the plan would be to issue $6 million in alternate revenue bonds. The funds would be used to improve all of the streets listed in the worst condition on the village’s 2013 street condition survey. In addition, that money would be used to resurface the streets in the former special service areas on the south end of the village, which are now between 20 and 24 years old.
The bonds would be paid off in 10 years, said Sbiral, using about $700,000 from the new revenue approved by voters to pay the debt service. The remaining $1.8 million of the new revenue approved by voters would be part of the road improvement effort.
Once the debt on the bonds is paid off, the entire $2.5 million can be used toward road improvements each year, allowing the village to continually repair its residential side streets.
“We’d continue to move this forward on a perpetual cycle,” Sbiral said. “It puts in a system where we’re not catching up anymore, but we’re doing the streets when they need to be done.”
In order to get a referendum question on the spring ballot, the village board will have to approve the question and submit it to the Cook County Clerk by Dec. 28.
Trustee Michael Garvey said he agreed that the time was right to ask voters whether they wanted to pay more in taxes in order to sustain side street improvements in Brookfield.
“I agree it’s gotten to the point where we have to give the residents a choice,” Garvey said.
Sbiral described the referendum request as a “conservative” one, keeping in mind that if the village wanted to fully fund all of its capital needs, it would have to spend between $5 million and $6 million per year, between road repairs, vehicle replacement, water and sewer repairs, park improvements and other items.
If the referendum is successful, Brookfield will be able to complete some side street improvements in fall 2016, with a more robust program in 2017.
“We’re going to survive as a village one way or another,” Sbiral said. “This is a relatively conservative amount that will put us on track for successful infrastructure funding.”