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Creative thinking on Montgomery referendum : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Creative thinking on Montgomery referendum

The Montgomery Village Board will soon put a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot asking village voters to increase the village's municipal sales tax by one percent.

The board has unanimously agreed to seek passage of the referendum to provide additional funding for the village's annual street maintenance program. The village's engineering consultants advised the board in February the village will require an additional $1.8 million to $2.3 million annually to maintain local streets in the years ahead.

The need for the additional revenue is due largely to the unprecedented home building boom the village experienced during the past decade when the local population increased from approximately 5,000 to more than 17,000. It seems hard to believe now, but prior to 2000 only a handful of village residents lived west of Orchard Road. Now, the majority of the village's population resides there in subdivisions whose streets will require costly resurfacing in another few years.

If voters approve the referendum, state law will limit the village to using the revenues from the increased tax only for street maintenance and other public infrastructure expenses. The law will not allow the village to use the funds to pay other expenses such as employee salaries and for other daily operations.

Board members have said they believe increasing the sales tax is the village's best option to pay for local street maintenance since the tax will be paid not only by village residents when they shop in local stores, but also the many out-of-towners from Oswego, Aurora and other area communities who shop in the village.

However, passage of the referendum is far from certain. In fact, we suspect there is a strong chance voters will turn it down given the continuing high unemployment in the area and wage stagnation. Plus, many voters-especially in this day and age of government distrust-will automatically vote "no" on any tax increase, even if it is to pave the street in front of their home.

Given the current negative economic and political climate, we applaud Village President Matt Brolley for his efforts to limit the impact a sales tax increase might have on village residents. With the support of the board last week, Brolley asked village staff to research the possibility of the village providing residents with a rebate on the village portion of their annual property tax bills if the referendum passes. Brolley noted that voters in two other Chicago area municipalities secured passage of tax increase referendums by pledging to also reduce their residents' property tax burden.

However, Brolley noted the village accounts for just a small portion of the amount owed on the annual tax bills and the rebates the village might offer may not represent much of a savings for residents. Board members expressed interest in the rebates, but also expressed some skepticism.

Still, Brolley gets credit for seeking out and proposing a plan that might provide village residents with some very modest property tax relief in the event the sales tax increase referendum is approved.

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