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Oak Park’s village hall staff has felt the burden of a tough budget year. Now it’s the public’s turn.

After the village sword sliced notable chunks from staff and services, cuts totaling over $3.5 million, gaps still remained in the various “funds.” So to answer, the village board Monday gave tentative approval to various fee and tax increases as well as an unexpected last moment plan to modestly raise property taxes.

The answers include a two cent per gallon gas tax increase, a 25 percent water rate increase, a roughly 12 percent up tick for waste removal, and a three percent increase in property taxes.

The gas tax raises Oak Park’s take on a gallon of gas to five cents per gallon. Officials predict it will generate an extra $400,000 in revenues and a positive fund balance of $150,000 for capital improvements. The number doesn’t account for any possible decrease in gas purchased locally after the increase.

However, trustees pointed out that the last time the board raised the gas tax, revenues actually went up the following year. The board raised the tax in 2005, and the revenues increased from $474,000 in 2004 to $633,000 in 2005.

Residents will see a roughly 12 percent increase in garbage pickup rates next year. Disposal contracts are going up three percent, and the board wanted to close a $470,000 deficit in the solid waste fund. Single family residents will see between a $5 and $6 increase per quarterly bill, or $20 to $24 for the year.

Rather than just passing through Chicago’s 15 percent water rate increase, the board added its own increase of 10 percent to help offset those added costs and close the water and sewer fund deficit. The 25 percent total increase would generate $2.06 million in revenues. For the average water user, it translates to about $22 extra on each quarterly bill or $88 annually, Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner said.

Towards the end of the board’s almost five hour meeting Monday, President David Pope proposed a 3 percent increase to the property tax, about the rate of inflation. The hike would raise about $300,000 in extra revenues for the village and bring its fund balance to about $460,000. That would put the village at a one percent balance, well below its target of having 20 percent of its annual spending held in reserve.

The increase is less than the village hike of 3.6 percent to the property tax last year, Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar said.

“It’s a modest increase,” he said. “It’s basically just keeping pace with inflation.”

Trustee Jon Hale was the only trustee that voted against the property tax increase, as well as some of the other tax and fee increases. The board is set to adopt the 2008 budget on Thursday.

“After all these cuts we’ve made, I think we should give folks a breather on the property taxes this year,” Hale said

“A modest consumer price index increase in the property tax is responsible when you are able to articulate to the citizens it is to provide us a fund balance and a rebuilding of a fund balance,” said Trustee Ray Johnson. “This is the first step to getting towards a target goal.”

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