By Nona Tepper
River Forest trustees voted unanimously to enact a 3 cent per gallon tax on motor fuel purchased in the village at a board meeting on July 22. Village Administrator Eric Palm said the new tax "levels the playing field" between home rule communities like Oak Park and non-home rule communities like River Forest, and said the increased revenue would go into road repair.
"Within our budget, due to the increase in public safety pension obligations, there becomes more pressure put on the general fund to fund operations, and some areas that we've cut and been the most creative [with] have gone directly into street maintenance programs," Palm said at the meeting.
"There's an ongoing debate about what [the village's] street-patching budget is going to be on an annual basis because that's one of the first areas we have to cut based on just where dollars and cents shake out. So this would allow us to continue to put more dollars into capital for the village."
The measure is the result of new legislation that went into effect July 1, which doubled the state's tax on gasoline from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon. The last time the tax had been increased was 1990. The new legislation also allowed non-home rule municipalities within Cook County, such as River Forest, to tax up to 3 cents per gallon.
River Forest has two gas stations in the village. Palm estimated the new tax would generate "mid-five figures" in annual revenue for River Forest.
"Oak Park puts the 6 cents tax on it; we put a zero tax on it. So Oak Park is taking 6 cents and we're taking zero cents. We're not home rule, so the 3 cents allows us to catch up," said Village President Cathy Adduci, adding that the legislature passed the measure so the increased gas tax "didn't discriminate, basically, between non-home rule and home-rule. And we are appreciative of that because it would have put us even bigger in the hole.
"To me, it's just trying to keep up and trying to stay competitive with our neighboring communities," Adduci said.
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