The New Lenox Village Board unanimously approved a $27 million capital improvements plan Monday that includes increases to sales and utility taxes.
Despite some concerns from community members, Mayor Tim Baldermann and the village trustees tried to explain the reasoning behind the projects, which include building a new police station and public works facility, connecting Nelson Road between Illinois Highway and Haven Avenue and completing a 20-year plan for side street repairs.
To fund this, the village would increase its sales tax by a 1/2 a cent, bringing the total rate to 8.5 percent, and also increase its utility tax 5 percent on gas and electric.
Two questions Baldermann said he's gotten most frequently about these projects were whether new buildings were needed, and if they were, why now when the economy is still recovering?
"The buildings are in terrible shape," the mayor has said repeatedly. "They could last another two to three years, but new ones will have to be built. And if we wait, the cost of insurance, the cost of construction … will all go up."
Still, residents who spoke during the meeting were concerned with increased taxes. Robert Buonadonna said he's worked in retail his entire life, and he fears an increased sales tax will force businesses to take steps to recoup costs at a further expense to consumers and part-time workers. Likewise, he opposed an increase to utility taxes.
"These are regressive taxes," Buonadonna said. "They hurt the poor. They still have to pay to keep the lights on."
Comparatively, the 8.5 percent sales tax is equal to or less than competitors in Bolingbrook, Joliet and Orland Park, and the board explained that people from all over, not just residents, will be paying the sales tax increase. That's a hurt that New Lenox Township residents could feel, having to pay higher sales tax without seeing the benefit of a property tax rebate that village residents do.
"I think it’s very unfair," township resident Phil Adair said. "Think of other people besides just the village residents."
Baldermann said township residents may still see benefits through improvements to projects paid for by the sales tax increase, including a new police station and side street repairs. Overall, the mayor maintained that the average resident will see up to $120 in savings, even after the tax bill, because of property tax rebates, aggregated electricity rates and the elimination of pet and vehicle sticker fees.
Trustee Dave Smith also proposed a resolution explaining the reasoning behind the capital projects, and that also passed unanimously.
"We can’t control (future boards), but we can tell them what we were thinking," Smith said.
Questions? You can contact village staff at 815-462-6400.