Businesses worry about impact of River Forest sales tax hike

With voter OK, increase takes effect July 2011


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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

Local businesses and at least one village trustee are worried that the same River Forest residents who voted for a sales tax hike on Tuesday will be hesitant to take out their wallets when it hits next summer.

Voters passed a referendum in Nov. 2's election to bump up the village's sales tax 1 percentage point, boosting it from 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent.

The increase, which was approved 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent, would 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.

Keith Jackson, owner of Gunzo's Hockey Headquarters, 7706 Madison St., feared the tax hike might scare some of his customers away in the already-tight economy.

"I think any time you put an additional tax on something, that discourages consumers, especially in a time like this. We're kind of lucky that we have a specialized business," Jackson said.

Nevertheless, hockey equipment and jerseys can be expensive, and the tax increase might make it easier for customers to walk away from a local shop like Gunzo's and take their business online, Jackson said.

"That's always a consideration and obviously, the more advantage you give to them from a price standpoint, the bigger disadvantage we're at," he said. "I understand the village is having their own problems, but it's just a bad thing."

Tulipia Floral Design, 7617 Lake St., wasn't sure how the hike would affect business yet, but they weren't pleased with the boost.

"People are holding onto their money as it is," said a man who identified himself as the owner, but declined to give his name. "But with my business, I don't think it will affect it that much."

But Jim Winikates, a River Forest village trustee who was one of the strongest voices in favor of the tax increase, said it'll help the village avoid falling into a deep financial hole.

"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.

Trustee Steve Hoke opposed the referendum, but wasn't shocked that it passed.

"I'm mildly surprised that it was even close, given the lack of any organized opposition," he wrote in a text message. "The old playbook works: Scare the voters with vague claims of service cuts, increase spending — in this case 9.3 percent — and delay the day of reckoning."

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.

Reader Comments

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DB Specner from River Forest  

Posted: November 7th, 2010 9:10 PM

I'm surprised Keith would want the publicity. This is like when Hines Lumber complained. Maybe Keith wants to open all his books for the IRS, IDR, and the Village Treasurer. What a joke.


Posted: November 5th, 2010 5:53 PM

Sarah, you are 100% correct. My property tax bill shows that about 11% goes to the Village. What my tax bill doesn%u2019t show is ALL the other taxes I end up paying to the Village. Water tax, garbage, electric tax, natural gas tax, cable TV tax, telephone tax, cell phone tax, vehicle tax, pet tax, and of course a new higher sales tax. Our schools are upfront with what they ask residents to pay, while the Village picks cash out of our pockets in many different ways.


Posted: November 5th, 2010 5:32 PM

Sarah posts her anonymous post criticizing anonymous posters at 4:48, just 4 minutes after Dan Lauber posts a comment about the Ike lobbyist article. Dan, are you having any gender identity issues you want to reveal?


Posted: November 5th, 2010 4:48 PM

It's fun watching all these anonymous people attacking the one person willing to use his name here. You're a bunch of cowards who can't read a municipal budget. Want to know whose responsible for high River Forest property taxes? It's the schools - 70% go to them; 10.98% to the village. Check the 2nd installment of your 2008 or 2009 tax bill and see for yourselves, you nameless cowards.


Posted: November 5th, 2010 4:05 PM

Still awaiting a response Mr Lauber to my questions of yesterday. 16% spending hike by the Rigas Team in just 2 years? Add that to the questions you can't answer. When D90 sues the Village for misuse of TIF funds, you can testify as soon as Rigas and Winnikates finish. We have you to credit for getting these guys to admit it publicly. We taxpayers thank you for your inadvertent admission.

Luv RF  

Posted: November 5th, 2010 10:32 AM

Da Dude: The 9.3% increase comes from Diamond Jim Winikits has been saying that himself, on top of his 5.3% increase last year (can't blame that on the TIF). 15% in two years under this regime.


Posted: November 5th, 2010 9:20 AM

I find those numbers even more interesting. It takes $30 million dollars to run the Village, yet Village President Winikates told this newspaper the schools are to blame for our high taxes. The District 90 is running on a $17.5 million budget, $12.5 million dollars less than the Village. It appears that all of those miscellaneous taxes and fees are sucking almost twice as much out of our pockets then we thought and knew. What else is the Village hiding from the residents?

DaDude from River Forest  

Posted: November 4th, 2010 5:49 PM

The Village's Budget Summary - Total by Fund shows FY 2009-2010 Projected expenditures of $31,241,424 for all funds. Expenditures for FY 2010-11 are $29,583,613 -- how is that a 9.3% increase? River Forest's budget is more than just the "General Fund." Those who limit the budget to the general fund are simply being misleading. "Tax and spend government" in River Forest -- you've got to be kidding!


Posted: November 4th, 2010 2:54 PM

Mr. LauberIt's and old trick that when you can't debate on the facts you belittle your opponent. Hoke said the budget went up 9.3%. FACT. It is illegal to use TIF funds for general operating expenses. FACT. Even the tax hike defenders claim that he TIF fund only accounts for 2.3% of the increase. FACT. Last year the budget went up dramatically as well under the current regime. FACT. Now, are you going to call me a liar too Mr Lauber?


Posted: November 4th, 2010 2:15 PM

Mr. Lauber. Our businesses may not be at a disadvantage now, but surely they have lost any competitive advantaged thanks to you and those in our tax and spend village government. As for saying the budget increase is a lie, I had to look for myself. According to the Village of River Forest's web site, the budget went up $1,072,075 from last year. That is 8.63% more spending. Readers, take a look at the budget yourself


Posted: November 4th, 2010 1:09 PM

ANOTHER TAXPAYER - it's absurd to ask a shop owner to lower their prices, especially in times like these. Have you ever owned your own business? Do you know the costs of running your own small business? Small business owners have a 50-55% margin in order to cover operating costs and cost of the merchandise. They're not making money hand over fist. And now it's going to be even harder because shoppers will find somewhere else to buy.


Posted: November 4th, 2010 10:11 AM

Interesting position "Canother taxpayer", I have to wonder if you would do what you are asking the shop-owner to do. Will you be willing to decrease your price (salary) if the taxes on the company you work for go up? This is exactly what you are asking, that he reduce his profits by 1% because of this tax. It is his profit that will be reduced since all the other expenses that are associated with running a business remain fixed costs. I hope you will be as understanding when the CEO of your company discovers your excellent idea!

Another Taxpayer  

Posted: November 4th, 2010 9:36 AM

Maybe this will encourage Gunzo's to lower their prices by 1% to make up for the increase. This specialized business will not be anymore affected by the sales tax increase then it was by the economy overall. I think you chose a poor representative to speak about this issue. He should eb paying the Journal for this free advertising.

Daniel Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 11:01 PM

It's pure, unfounded speculation that having the same sales tax as our neighboring communities will discourage anybody from shopping or dining in River Forest. Our businesses will be at no disadvantage compared to nearby suburbs.And for Steve Hoke to continue to characterize the shift in funds paid out of the TIF to the general fund as a 9.3% budget hike is just an outright lie. He should be ashamed of himself. It's time for him to put aside his Libertarian politics and focus on serving us.


Posted: November 3rd, 2010 9:10 AM

Thanks for the tip. I know where not to buy now!

Anita Morgan from River Forest  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 7:55 AM

Can you specify which services you mean (?) when you say, "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."

Stetson Siler from Oak Park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 2:14 AM

An increase from 8.5 to 9.5 percent is an increase of 11.7%, not 1%! Of course, you mean a 1 percentage point increase.

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