SSA taxes shifted back to residents

?The Brookfield village board votes 4-3 to rescind a decision to abate taxes for 1990s street construction.

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By BOB UPHUES

With Village President Michael Garvey casting the tie-breaking vote, the Brookfield village board Monday night rescinded its earlier abatement of taxes to residents in six Special Service Areas. The move will place the burden of paying debt service on bonds issued for street and sewer construction during the 1990s back onto property owners and off the village's general fund.

The final vote was 4-2 with Trustee Michael Towner, who lives in Special Service Area No. 7, recusing himself from voting. Trustees Catherine Colgrass Edwards, C.P. Hall and Kit Ketchmark voted to rescind the tax abatements. Trustee Alan Dorobiala, who also lives within a Special Service Area, and Trustee Linda Stevanovich voted to maintain the abatements. Since Towner's abstention could not be counted as an affirmative vote, Garvey's vote was needed to break the tie.

"The reason I asked for this is because when the previous administration did it, it was a quick decision without discussion of how it would affect our future finances," Garvey said. "With a deficit of over $1 million, that [money] is needed for other essential services at this time."

On April 25, in one of its final acts, a VIP-controlled village board voted 4-2 without discussion to abate some $440,000 in taxes to residents in the SSAs. The same board had voted to abate those taxes in 2004 as well, and the debt service on the SSA payments were assumed by the village's general fund.

The argument forwarded by former President Bill Russ was that the SSA payments were an unfair burden on the residents in the SSAs, since they were paying for their streets to be built years earlier while current street improvements were being financed through debt paid by the village. Opponents of Russ argued that the SSAs were created through referendum and that, while the village has moved away from the idea of creating SSAs to fund street improvements, residents agreed to pay the debt service and maintain that obligation.

Garvey said he wouldn't rule out seeking some type of tax relief for residents in the SSAs in the future. He added, however, that it would take time to put together some sort of package that fits within the scheme of the village's finances. Once such a proposal is available, Garvey said he'd bring it to the village board for discussion.

One final piece of the SSA abatement puzzle remains to be completed. Tonight at 9 p.m. at a special meeting of the board (after the second village budget workshop) the board will vote to abate a portion of resident taxes in Special Service Area No. 3, the area which includes Jaycee/Ehlert Park. Since portions of the improved streets border village property, the village has always agreed to pay the debt service on that portion.

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