Brookfield may seek sales tax hike in '06

New law allows up to 1 percent local tax via referendum

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By BOB UPHUES

Brookfield voters in March may be asked to implement a separate local sales tax of between 0.5 and 1 percent to help the village fund ongoing road improvements.

At a meeting of the village's Board of Trustees Monday night at the Brookfield Zoo Discovery Center, Village President Michael Garvey suggested the possibility of the new sales tax, which was made possible earlier this month when the Illinois House voted to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of Senate Bill 272.

The new legislation increases the amount a municipality can collect under the non-home rule sales tax. Currently the law allows non-home rule communities to impose a tax of not more than 0.5 percent on sales that don't involve food (excluding restaurants) and medicines.

On Jan. 1, municipalities can impose a sales tax of up to 1 percent. Any such increase, however, would have to come via voter approval.

"Coming up with an ongoing revenue stream is always a goal," Garvey said. "One year of money is not going to solve the problems we have. If this were to pass, we could say to residents that this board would use any funds from this increase to fund the street improvements we so desperately need."

Brookfield has never sought to impose a separate local sales tax since the provision was first agreed to by the state legislature in 1992. Many home rule communities in Cook County have already imposed local sales taxes of up to 1.25 percent. Berwyn, Stickney and Cicero, for example, has a local sales tax of 1 percent.

Several nearby non-home rule communities have raised local sales taxes the full half-percent by referendum, including North Riverside, Broadview, Oakbrook and Forest Park.

According to Village Manager Riccardo Ginex, preliminary figures indicate that Brookfield could expect an extra $200,000 to $450,000 per year in new sales taxes if a referendum were passed by voters.

Most of the new sales tax revenue would be collected through sales at village automotive businesses and filling stations and at Brookfield's various eating and drinking establishments.

"We don't want to put our businesses at any disadvantage," Garvey said, "but when you look at a list of communities that currently impose [a local sales tax], someone would have to go pretty far to find a municipality not imposing some sort of tax."

It was unclear whether money could be funneled directly into a street improvement fund. More likely, the money would go into the village's general operating fund, and the board would have to declare its use during the budgeting process.

Christopher DiBracco, manager of Brixie's Saloon on Ogden Avenue, said during the public comment portion of the meeting that the idea of a local sales tax might be able to garner the support of the business community if the village could ensure the money would be going to a separate infrastructure fund.

If Brookfield is to take advantage of the new rule allowing a 1-percent sales tax, village trustees are going to have to move fairly quickly. The law does not go into effect until Jan. 1, which means municipalities can't pass a resolution to put a sales tax referendum on the ballot until after that date.

However, once Jan. 1 comes, municipalities won't have much time to pass such a resolution. The deadline for passing a resolution for a question to appear on the March allot is Jan. 17.

"Then it will be up to residents to decide if it passed or failed," Garvey said.

If a sales tax referendum did appear on the ballot in Brookfield, it would have plenty of company.

Brookfield School District 95 has made it clear that it will be asking voters in the Proviso Township portion of the village for a property tax increase to bolster its education fund.

Meanwhile, Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 will be asking its residents in the Proviso and Riverside township portions of the village for perhaps two separate referenda?"one for a major renovation of the school and one for the education fund.

Brookfield resident and District 208 board member Laura Hruska, who attended the village board meeting, suggested the village board might take those other impending referendums into account before deciding on a March date for its question.

Ginex said that if a sales tax referendum passes in March, the village could begin tapping into the new revenue by July 1. If Brookfield waits until the fall, he said the village would not see new sales tax revenue until 2007.

The village's financial consultants, Kane, McKenna & Associates, will be on hand at the village's next board meeting on Dec. 12 at village hall to brief the board on its financial options, including a sales tax referendum.

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