OP, RF among villages paying backunconstitutional cell phone taxes

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The villages of Oak Park and River Forest were among nearly 400 in Illinois that agreed to repay roughly $17 million to cell phone providers for collecting unconstitutional infrastructure taxes on cell phone bills in years past.

Oak Park's portion of the payback will be just more than $205,000, the bulk of which is a payment to the cell phone companies that filed a class action lawsuit after former provider PrimeCo initiated the legal action and received settlements from municipalities.

The fees were collected between Jan. 1, 1998 and Feb. 7, 2002, and were levied after Gov. Jim Edgar signed into law a measure allowing the fees. The law was rescinded after a 2001 Illinois Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional.

Oak Park's fees include $168,386.75 for the settlement and $36,696.40 for attorneys' fees, according to Greg Peters, village finance director. Peters said the village began putting money into escrow in 2000 to repay the debt.

River Forest's portion of the settlement was $36,875.30. Settlement payments were at 70 percent of the taxes collected.

?#34;Drew Carter and Bob Uphues

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