Brookfield residents can officially expect to be confronted with a referendum question on the March 15, 2016 primary ballot.

On Dec. 14, village trustees voted unanimously on a question asking voters to approve $22 million to pay for residential street improvements over the next eight years.

The yes-or-no question on the ballot will read: “Shall the village of Brookfield, Cook County, Illinois, undertake an eight-year street-improvement program throughout the village and issue its bonds to the amount of $22 million for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”

The vote followed a 17-minute speech by Hollywood resident Sam Levin, who questioned the need for the tax increase.

“The obvious question is, ‘Where can extra revenues be found to repair streets without raising taxes?'” Levin said, rattling off a list of expenditures from the village’s Dec. 14 list of bills, which included payments for employee health insurance premiums, expenses related to testing police officer candidates, the village information technology infrastructure, legal expenses pertaining to the village’s defense of a lawsuit filed against it by Riverside-Brookfield High School and decorations for the village’s Christmas tree, among others.

Levin also called on the village to force the Chicago Zoological Society to pay what he called “the fair share of its expenses” for Brookfield infrastructure, claiming the village had caved in on prior demands from the zoo.

“Quit coddling the zoo and demand the zoo pays the fair share of [Brookfield’s infrastructure] expenses,” Levin said, specifically referencing the village’s 10-year water-supply contract with the zoo, which was passed in 2010.

Also in 2010, the village attempted to get the zoo to pay a greater share of infrastructure costs and imposed an amusement tax on all businesses, including the zoo, which would have raised an additional $350,000 to $500,000. 

But the Chicago Zoological Society successfully lobbied the Illinois General Assembly, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation in early 2011 to prohibit any municipality from imposing any such tax on a zoo.

Meanwhile, former trustee Michael Towner, who proposed a similar bond issue plan while running for village president in 2013 and village trustee in 2015, applauded the village’s plan for repairing streets.

“I wholeheartedly support the bond referendum,” Towner said. “It’s a more controlled expense and the funds will be dedicated to infrastructure.”

The vote comes on the heels of a Dec. 1 town hall meeting outlining the street improvement plan. About a dozen people attended the meeting.

About 15.3 miles, or one-third, of the village’s residential streets would be improved during the eight years following a successful bond referendum and the bonds would be issued in three installments over five years, which would phase in and phase out the tax hike over a 15-year period.

The owner of a home valued at $200,000 would see property taxes increase by about $164 the first two years after passage, then see them rise to about $310 for two more and then to a peak of approximately $415 for about six years before ramping down over the final five years.

The village board is expected to host two more town hall meetings regarding the street improvement plan in 2016 prior to the primary election. Dates for those sessions have not been announced yet.

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