Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tax Increase Update

Earlier this year, the neighborhood along Maple Avenue between Brainerd and Milwaukee Avenues, came together and prevented the tear-down of an old, historic Victorian home in their neighborhood. The First Presbyterian Church had planned to tear down the home and turn it into a parking lot. The neighborhood came together quickly and effectively, raised awareness across the village for their causes and successfully fought the demolition of the home. The Village Board meeting where the demolition permit was to be issued was packed (standing room only) with residents from all across the community to express their concern and outrage over the planned tear-down of the home.

Fast forward to last night - the mostly new Village Board has found themselves in a situation where sales tax revenue in the village has been on a decline since 2001, and village expenses have been steadily increasing. Mixed into the financial mess is the Libertyville Sports Complex, which has drained the Village's resources, and with 25 years of debt payments and a horrible real estate market - this has no chance of going away anytime soon. All of the financial problems the board is now facing has been years in the making - most of the Village Board has only been on the job for four months. On the verge of a major financial crisis, the Village Board, under the advisement of the Village's Finance Committee, has approved a tax hike on resident's cable, gas and electric bills. Typically, I find any sort of municipal tax hike unacceptable - however, I'm not sure what other choice the Village Board has in this situation. One bright spot of the tax increase - after hearing an earful from the handful of Village residents who came to last night's meeting to express their concern - the Village Board adopted an amendment to their original plan, which will call for an annual review of the tax hike - theoretically, the tax can go away as soon as next fall, if tax revenues increase. I think this is a better plan than one Village resident's idea to cut back the personnel and equipment who respond to fire and ambulance calls.

Finally - what was my point on including the first part of this blog entry about the Saving Maple organization? Despite the fact that I feel last night's tax increase is a necessary result of a series of unfortunate events (Including the construction of the Sports Complex), I am still amazed that so few residents attended last night's meeting compared to the meeting earlier this year. The Maple Avenue tear-down brought in around 140 residents to the Village Board meeting - last night might have had 30-40 residents. I felt both issues were very important to the Village - but I would suspect the tax issues has a bigger, more immediate impact to more Village residents. Is it that this is such a small tax not too many people are that concerned? Did people not know about the meeting? I'm curious - feel free to post your comments/feelings about the tax increase and/or the current financial situation the Village is in.