Brookfield's village board is leaning toward approving a local gasoline sales tax, which is currently projected to raise $100,000 annually.
While the state has long taxed motor fuel sales, as part of the capital bill, the state now allows non-home rule municipalities like Brookfield to levy motor fuel taxes of their own. While the law allows the village to charge up to 3 cents a gallon, Brookfield is currently considering setting it at 2 cents a gallon. While the village documents refer to it as a "gasoline tax," it would apply to all forms of fuel.
Trustees discussed the issue during the Jan. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting. While they were uneasy about adding a tax, they felt the state left them with few other options to get new revenue. And while some worried that residents might drive to other municipalities to avoid the tax, others wondered whether using more gasoline to drive further to save money on gasoline would make sense.
The idea of instituting a gasoline tax originally came up during the 2020 budget workshop, as Brookfield officials and staff discussed ways to raise revenue. While the staff recommended raising it to the highest rate possible, the trustees asked the staff to set the rate at 2 cents.
As noted during the Committee of the Whole meeting, North Riverside imposed the gasoline tax at the same rate at the start of this year. The staff report mentions that nearby Riverside, River Forest, LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Springs haven't followed suit.
It should be noted that, according to the June 6, 2019 report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Brookfield won't get all of that revenue. The Illinois Department of Revenue will be charging a two-percent service fee for the amount it collects and forwards to the municipality.
Doug Cooper, Brookfield's finance director, told trustees he expects the village to start receiving motor fuel tax revenue on July 1, and that it would receive around $60,000 during the first year.
Brookfield let the owners of all five gas stations located within the village limits know about the Jan. 13 discussion ahead of time -- but no one showed up to comment on the matter one way or another.
Trustee Michael Garvey said he struggled with the idea, but he felt Brookfield had little choice but to go for it.
"I mean, the state tied our hands in so many ways, with property tax caps and unfunded mandates," he said, using 911 dispatch consolidation as an example. "It's unfortunate, but it's one of the few tools we have left to [raise revenue], and the fact that neighboring North Riverside did it makes it easier."
Garvey did add that he was worried about people driving to other towns to avoid the tax -- but even then, he argued that, if the village notices a large drop in revenue, they could reconsider the matter.
Trustee Katie Kaluzny was skeptical that many drivers would do that.
"If they're going to drive farther to get gas cheaper, they're going to waste gas doing that," she said. "I don't think it's that big of a change."
"I agree," said Trustee Edward Cote. "We'll monitor the sales, but I'll bet you other villages will start implementing [the gasoline tax] as well."