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Oswego, Montgomery face street funding crunch : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego, Montgomery face street funding crunch

Both Oswego Village President Brian LeClercq and Montgomery Village President Matt Brolley acknowledged in their recent "State of the Village" addresses that their respective communities are going to need additional revenues in the years ahead if they wish to maintain local streets in their current condition.

The two municipalities do receive state reimbursed Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) revenues. But those payments, which are calculated by the state using census data, are nowhere near enough to cover the full cost of annual street maintenance programs.

How did the two villages come to need more money for street maintenance? The answer can be found in the many local subdivisions that have been built over the past 15 or so years. The streets in those subdivisions, installed by subdivision developers at no initial cost to the villages, are going to continue to require resurfacing and other maintenance in the years ahead. As owners of those streets, that responsibility falls on the villages and local taxpayers.

As we've reported recently, officials in both municipalities have discussed various funding options, including the possibility of increasing their municipal sales taxes to generate the needed revenues.

Oswego's current sales tax rate is 7.75 percent, while Montgomery has two tax rates. In stores in the Kendall County portion of the village the rate is 7.25 percent, while in the Kane County portion the rate is seven percent. As a point of comparison, the sales tax rate in neighboring Aurora is 8.25 percent.

In Montgomery, Jeff Zoephel, village administrator, recently advised the village board that village staff is prepared to recommend that the rate be increased a full percent to 8.25 percent in Kendall County and eight percent in Kane County.

If additional revenues have to be raised, several officials in both villages have indicated increasing the sales tax is a preferred option since it will be paid not only by village residents shopping in local stores, but also by the many people who live outside the two villages that also drive on local roads and shop in local stores.

Oswego automatically became a Home Rule community under state law several years ago when its population topped 25,000. Home Rule status gives the village board additional powers under state law-including the authority to increase the sales tax by a majority vote of the board. The board used its Home Rule powers in 2010 when it voted 4-3 to increase the sales tax rate from 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent.

Montgomery, with a population of just over 18,000, remains a non-home rule community. As a result, the board must place any proposal to increase its municipal sales tax before local voters in the form of a referendum.

We hate to see politics factor into local governmental decisions, but the reality is that Montgomery's non Home Rule status gives the current and future village boards more political cover than the Oswego Village Board enjoys with Home Rule. If a referendum is put on the ballot and rejected in Montgomery, future village boards can point to the measure's defeat as the reason local streets are crumbling. They can tell residents, "We asked if you wanted to raise revenues to pay resurface your street, but you declined." But in Oswego the decision to increase the sales tax or any other taxes to pay for street maintenance will be up to the village board.

If recent history is a guide, some board members in both villages may not want to vote favorably on any motion that could lead to an increase in taxes-even if the revenues to be generated are to pay for a necessary budget item like street maintenance. They may advocate cutting their respective villages' budgets to generate the needed revenues. But given the amount of revenue both villages require for street maintenance on an annual basis, major cuts would be needed. Such cuts could negatively affect other essential services such as police protection and public works. We doubt residents in either Oswego or Montgomery would want to see fewer snow plows or police cars out on their streets.

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