River Forest government officials can breathe easier now.

That’s because the just-passed sales tax referendum should give the village some wiggle room as it starts to sculpt next year’s budget.

The 1-percentage-point boost will raise River Forest’s sales tax from 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent.

The increase, which voters approved Nov. 2 by a 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent margin, will make River Forest’s rate the same as Oak Park’s and Elmwood Park’s. The tax won’t affect most groceries or prescription drugs.

A July memo from former village administrator Steve Gutierrez projected the sales tax bump would bring in an additional $687,000 per year for the village.

At an August board meeting, village board member Jim Winikates said River Forest was facing a $600,000 to $900,000 deficit without the sales tax increase.

After the tax was passed, Winikates said the village’s residents recognized the need to help the village’s sagging economy.

“I think what it says is that the residents like the services that they get, and they’re willing to take a few bucks out of their pockets to make sure they keep getting them,” he said in an interview Tuesday night after learning the results.

Winikates had previously said that without a new source of revenue, the village would be forced to cut down its already bare-bones staff.

The village board now has to pass an ordinance to hike the tax rate, which is likely to happen, given previous support from board members before the referendum.

The rate will then go up July 1 of next year, as long as the village informs the state by Jan. 1.

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...