(File photo)

It’s been nearly 20 years ago since Riverside’s elected officials chose to fund street improvements by asking voters to support issuing bonds and levying a tax to pay off the debt over 10 years.

In 2004, voters overwhelmingly supported a $2 million bond issue for that purpose and followed up in 2014 with a bond issue of $2.15 million. If they were to hold to the same schedule, elected officials would again be scheduled to go to voters for another bond issue in 2024.

But, Trustee Doug Pollock on Aug. 5 suggested to fellow elected officials that he’d prefer a permanent solution for funding street improvements – one that didn’t cost the village what has amounted to close a half million dollars in interest payments every 10 years.

That half million dollars represents the cost of another street improvement project, Pollock said.

“I know the political risk in doing this, but I really think we have to consider asking the voters to make a permanent levy of that same amount that we’ll always have for streets,” Pollock said. “Because streets is not a one-time capital project. It is ongoing maintenance that is critical to this village.”

The goal, said Pollock, would be to levy enough for an ongoing road improvement program that could resurface every road in the village every 15 to 20 years.

While trustees did not discuss the matter in any depth, no one voiced an objection to exploring the idea further. Village President Joseph Ballerine appeared open to the idea as long as a new tax levy would simply replace the existing debt service borne by property owners when the 2014 bond issue retires in three years and not add to it.

Ballerine also wanted to make sure capital projects in the pipeline wouldn’t be delayed by a new tax levy needing to build up reserves before work could begin.

Village Manager Jessica Frances said the annual debt service in the 2014 bonds was roughly $265,000 per year. Adding an annual tax levy at the levy with other sources of infrastructure funding would be able to provide enough annually for an ongoing initiative, said Finance Director Karin Johns.

In addition to a standalone tax levy for street improvements, the village collects around $200,000 annually in non-home rule sales taxes and around $320,000 in state motor fuel taxes, both of which must be earmarked for road and other infrastructure improvements.

Combined with a dedicated road improvement tax levy, the village could have around $785,500 annually at its disposal for ongoing street improvements. During the next decade, Riverside has tentatively scheduled annual road projects ranging from $360,000 to $2 million.

Those projects vary widely and include alley reconstructions, basic street maintenance and resurfacing projects connected to sewer repairs. Some of those projects, like the East Quincy Street streetscape makeover and the extension of the Des Plaines River Trail, are dependent on state or federal grant funding.