Lincolnwood village increases sales tax
by KEVIN GROSS
The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at its March 19 meeting unanimously voted to raise its municipal sales tax from 1 to 1.25 percent effective July 1.
The increase is estimated to raise approximately $600,000 in additional revenue, which would add to about $2 million in general obligation bonds issued to fund the $3.4 million construction of the North Shore outfall sewer, which is expected to be completed by next year. The sewer will run along West North Shore Avenue from Drake Avenue to the North Shore Channel. The remainder was paid through a $1.4 million Metropolitan Water Reclamation District grant.
The tax revenue will also service future general obligation bonds that will be issued to fund an estimated $4.2 million in costs for the second stage of storm water storage improvements east of Lincoln Avenue, slated to begin in fiscal year 2020-21.
“Staff informed the village board that we would have to issue general obligation debt to pay for these costs for both the sewer and stage two, it’s about $6.2 million,” village finance director Robert Merkel said. “Staff presented some options for paying the debt on these service bonds, and the concurrence of the village board was to increase the village’s home rule sales tax by a quarter percent … that would generate about $600,000, which would be more than enough to pay the debt service on these bonds.”
Trustee Ronald Cope raised concerns about what he described as the “constant trend of the board’s increase in taxes.”
“I thought about it in terms of the cost of goods,” he said, referring to the impact of inflation and the combined sales tax of 10.25 percent that includes the county’s 1.75 percent tax, the state’s 6.25 percent tax and a 1 percent special sales tax applying to all nearby municipalities.
“When you not only have the cost of living and the cost of materials and goods going up, and you add to it by increasing the sales tax, it’s a ‘double whammy,’ because not only are people paying more for goods and products, but then they pay a higher percentage of tax, which adds on an additional increment,” he said.
Trustee Jesal Patel said that the measure was the “least harmful” option, when compared to other revenue options such as the raising of property taxes or a “sewer fee” added to residents’ water bills.
“There are taxes or fees that are paid by (Lincolnwood) residents and businesses only … or there are sales taxes, which are largely paid by non-residents,” Patel said. “Unless we want to cut services or our spending, we have to find sources of revenue. In this operation of government revenue is taxes, unless we (the village) start selling products. I don’t know what products we would sell.”
Merkel also said that the tax increase would not put Lincolnwood at a competitive disadvantage, as four bordering municipalities, including Chicago, already have a 1.25 percent sales tax. The City of Evanston still maintains a 1 percent sales tax rate.
“No one likes any taxes, but in this case I think it was the best option,” mayor Barry Bass said. “It’s such an important project.”
Trustees also approved a $34,755 contract to HVAC firm F.E. Moran to replace a boiler at the public works facility that recently failed.
“The boiler at the public works facility, which heats the offices, the lunchroom, the locker rooms, was scheduled for replacement in the coming fiscal year. However, two weeks ago on (March) 4th the boiler suffered a critical failure with one of the pipes, rendering it unusable. Since then we’ve been heating the building using a temporary heating setup,” public works director Andrew Letson said. “In order to expedite the replacement, it is recommended that the formal bidding process be waived for this informal process by which we are working with firms big on recent boiler replacement projects for the village.”
Trustees also approved $338,000 contract to replace the underground fuel storage tanks at the public works facility, which are used by municipal vehicles.
A leak likely caused from a pipe failure was discovered in the diesel tank sump pit on Feb. 14. The new system is expected to last about 40 years. The cost is estimated at $238,000, with $100,000 budgeted as a contingency for de-polluting soil and water contaminated from the leak.
As part of the consent agenda, trustees also approved special uses and a variation for the Amron Hall banquet facility, which would accommodate up to 190 guests and occupy about 5,000 feet of the building at 6421-25 N. Hamlin Ave.
The special uses allow the facility to remain open until midnight, keep 11 parking spaces in the front yard area, and reduce on-site parking to existing 19 spaces rather than the required 49 spaces. The banquet facility’s owners said at a Feb. 21 public hearing that they had verbal agreements with surrounding property owners to use nearby off-street parking spaces during events.
The approvals follow a move at the board’s March 5 meeting to approve an ordinance permitting banquet halls or facilities as a special use within the village’s M-B manufacturing and business zoning districts, including the Northeast Industrial District located east of Hamlin Avenue and bounded by Touhy and Pratt avenues to the north and south, where the Amron Hall facility is located.
Trustees also amended an ordinance and approved variations allowing a 100-square-foot wall sign at the Sacred Learning Center, 3900-10 W. Devon Ave., to be taller than the second story window line, and another monument signed to be set back 4.5 feet from the front lot line and located at the lot’s southeast corner, near the main vehicle entrance of the religious center currently under construction.