Please allow me this opportunity to thank Wednesday Journal for illustrating the need for the approval of the sales tax referendum on the upcoming ballot [Shhh. Pipe down and vote yes, Our Views, Oct. 20]. There are five basic reasons the village board has chosen to place this referendum on the November ballot:
1. As a non-home-rule municipality, River Forest must follow the referendum process to increase revenue through taxes. This referendum is simply following the laws that govern non-home-rule municipalities.
2. In 1993, the Village of River Forest received 18 percent of the revenues from the property taxes collected. In 2010, that percentage has steadily been reduced to 11 percent. Taxes and fees are how municipalities generate revenue.
3. River Forest’s neighboring communities have already established a sales tax that is higher than River Forest. River Forest is attempting to address a budget shortfall in the same manner as our neighbors.
4. Sales taxes provide revenue from nonresidents of River Forest, relieving some of the burden on the property owners.
5. The sales tax increase will assist the Village of River Forest in maintaining the level of services the residents of River Forest are accustomed.
I, as most residents of River Forest, do not wish to pay higher taxes. Upon election as village trustee, I realized that decisions must be made, both difficult and easy. This is one of those decisions for all of us. I as a village trustee, along with my fellow elected officials, will make the necessary decisions in the next year’s budget process. But first, we all, as residents, must decide at the ballot box what the upcoming revenues for that budget will be.
Michael W. Gibbs
Village trustee, River Forest
I’ve always been a skeptic when governments seek to raise taxes. Heck, last year I not only voted for Steve Hoke for village president, but I distributed his literature door-to-door.
But after seeing the state of River Forest’s financial situation firsthand as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Village Finances, I’ve got to urge River Forest residents to vote “Yes” next Tuesday, Nov. 2, to approve the referendum to increase River Forest’s sales tax just 1 percent and make it the same as our neighbors Oak Park, Melrose Park, and Elmwood Park.
River Forest is in a financial bind despite the current village board cutting expenses to the bone:
- Village staff reduced by 10 percent
- Authorized staff positions left vacant
- Nonunion staff salaries frozen for more than two years and salary increases for union workers limited to zero to two percent
- Cutbacks in village services
But unless we approve the Nov. 2 referendum to increase our relatively low sales tax by just 1 percent, River Forest can’t close the gap between essential expenses and revenue — and the village reserves will run out in just a few years.
The village is not crying “wolf.” River Forest’s financial crisis is very real — as thoroughly documented in the committee’s report which you can download at http://www.riverforestmatters.com. Our fire department has been cut back so much that if the village had to eliminate one more firefighter position, it couldn’t legally respond to fires. Streets aren’t being repaired as quickly as before. Cost-saving preventative maintenance has fallen by the wayside. Tree trimming has been cut back. Important village staff positions remain vacant because revenues have fallen so much. Without the revenue this sales tax will generate, the village really will have to cut back on police protection, leaf removal, snow plowing, flood prevention and mitigation, street and sewer repair, and more.
River Forest receives only 11 percent of the property tax we pay; 70 percent goes to the schools. Check the itemization on your property tax bill. As a non–home rule village, the only way to raise the funds needed to maintain the quality of village services we expect is by referendum. Increasing the sales tax by just 1 percent minimizes the cost to residents by spreading the cost to nonresidents who buy in River Forest. And the sales tax won’t apply to medicine or to most groceries.
If River Forest is to continue to be a first class suburb, we’ve got to approve this referendum. Vote “Yes” for River Forest on Tuesday, Nov. 2.