On March 15, the residents of  Brookfield will be asked to approve a referendum on issuing a series of bonds to fund street repairs. The plan being presented calls for $22 million in street work to be done over the next eight years and would fund improvements to the worst streets, which account for 37 percent of the total streets. Per state statute, these funds could only be used for street repairs. 

Many of the streets in our village are original streets. There are streets on the south side of town that were originally constructed as Special Service Areas over 20 years ago, and are nearing the life expectancy of asphalt streets. 

Over the past 10 years, the village has completed nearly $25 million of infrastructure improvements. Much of the completed street work has been on collector routes that have been eligible for federal grant funding for 75 percent of the cost of that work — every resident tax dollar was parlayed into three more federal dollars. 

There are not the same grant opportunities to fund residential street improvements. And while we have been able to complete approximately $2 million in residential street work over the past few years through general fund revenues, that is not coming even close to keeping up with the needs we have.

The village currently operates with a balanced budget. What that means is that basically our current spending equals our current revenues. We believe it is important to look at both sides of that equation. 

There are times when government bodies are too quick to look to increasing revenues and asking the taxpayers for more tax dollars, without giving enough thought to controlling costs. That is not the approach we have taken here. 

We have cut costs in many areas and worked to become more efficient. We have decreased staff. We have focused on providing core services. We have been able to obtain millions of dollars in grant funding that has served to lessen the tax burden on our residents. 

We have reduced the overall debt of the village, and subsequently have seen our bond rating increase. We have dealt with reductions in revenues in certain areas and rising costs in other areas. We continue to work around the state of Illinois issues that come back to directly impact our community.

Property owners will soon be receiving the first installment of their property tax bill. Approximately 23 percent of those taxes go to the village of Brookfield. The rest goes towards schools, the county, townships, etc. 

Property tax revenue the village receives only covers about 50 percent of our operating budget, the rest being made up with sales tax, permit fees, vehicle stickers, etc. We have looked at all other sources of revenue options, but none of those would allow us to fund the necessary street work that affects our entire community.

A majority vote yes on the referendum question allows this project to move forward.

Please visit the village’s website www.brookfieldil.gov or call the village hall at 708-485-7344 for additional information on this very important issue.

Kit P. Ketchmark is village president of Brookfield