River Forest weighing sales tax referendum

Food, prescription drugs would be exempt from 1 percent tax

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By BEN MEYERSON

Looking to balance its books for what could be an exceedingly difficult budget next year, the River Forest village board is considering asking for a one percent sales tax referendum as part of November's general election.

The tax, which some trustees said would simply bring River Forest's lower sales tax rate up to par with surrounding communities, would not include prescription drugs or unprepared food.

With next year's budget outlook increasingly dismal, Trustee James Winikates said the tax could provide the village with a much-needed boost.

"This certainly wouldn't eliminate [the projected deficit], but it would bring it down to a manageable level," Winikates said. "The alternatives will not be very pleasant."

Based on sales from this year, the tax could bring in an additional $687,000 to village coffers, according to Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez.

The next two elections the referendum could be placed on the ballot for are the Nov. 2 general election and next April's primary election.

Trustee Mike Gibbs said he preferred November, simply because more voters will likely turn out for the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections.

But minority trustees Steve Dudek and Steve Hoke disagreed with the idea that such a tax should even be considered, much less put to the voters.

"The trouble is that we, as a board, haven't made any of the hard decisions," Dudek said. "If you don't ever cut anything, you'll never be as efficient as you could be ... I personally don't think we're there yet."

The board will likely vote at its Aug. 9 meeting on whether or not to put a measure on the ballot.

Other news and notes

The board approved Concordia University's plan to build cell phone antennae on top of its parking garage, despite a last-minute appeal from an Oak Park man who protested that Grace Lutheran School and its patrons hadn't been involved in the year-long planning process.

The board approved a bid to rebuild crosswalks along Lake. However, Interim Director of Public Works Phil Cotter said the project may be delayed due to the regional labor strike.

The board took the first step towards ending the village's TIF district at the end of this year, by passing a routine ordinance.

Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez's temporary employment contract has been extended until August 30 while the board continues its search for his replacement.

CONTACT: bmeyerson@wjinc.com

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