by Paul DelGuidice
For The Villa Park Independent
Villa Park voters will have more to decide on at the polls on April 4 than who the best choices are for Trustee or which of three candidates will be the next Village President. Two referendum questions that impact taxes are also on the ballot.
The Villa Park Library is seeking a bond issue in the amount of $10.6 million to fund repairs, maintenance and an addition to the current building. The bonds would be repaid via a property tax increase. The second question seeks voter approval for a one-half cent increase in sales tax, with revenue generated used to pay for sewer separation, wastewater and flooding infrastructure repairs and replacement under Villa Park streets.
“The sales tax increase is the least painful way to fund the repairs,” said Trustee Chris Aiello. “Much of the (taxes) are paid by people from out of town that shop in Villa Park.”
Critics of the proposed sales tax increase argue that businesses in Villa Park are less competitive when higher taxes are charged at local stores. A similar sales tax increase ballot question was up for consideration during the Nov. 2016 General Election and was rejected by voters 4,818 to 4,498.
“That was a close vote,” Aiello said. “Considering the alternatives, (Village) staff felt another chance was warranted.”
One alternative to funding the infrastructure without a sales tax increase is doing nothing to improve the sewers under several streets that are being replaced or repaired with money from a $23 million bond issue approved for such purposes by voters in 2015. Those funds cannot be used for underground improvements, just for the streets. The best time to fix the water mains, sewers and improve flood control is when the streets are already being fixed, according to the Village Dept. of Public Works. Other funding ideas include increased fees for various services. The Village already has increased water bills as one-half of the funding solution, with the sales-tax increase being counted on to fund the other half.
Bond issue to renovate library
The other ballot question facing voters on April 4 seeks a bond issue to rehab the Villa Park Library.
“The library was built in 1969, with only moor upgrades done in 1997,” reads an informational flyer sent to Villa Park residents, “The 48- year-old building needs significant repairs.”
Besides being non-ADA compliant, the building located at 305 S. Ardmore Ave. requires structural work on the exterior, a new roof and drain system, plumbing, water, electrical and HVAC systems, fire sprinklers and an enlarged relocated elevator. The bond issue will also fund a 9,300 square-foot addition to the building allowing for more programs and easier access to the library’s collections. More parking will also be available due to a previous land-swap with St. Alexander’s Church.
The cost to taxpayers is in repaying the bonds that will be issued “bearing interest at a rate not to exceed 6% per annum,” according to the ballot question. The informational flyer pegged property tax increases of $5.43 cents per month for a home with a market value of $150,000. Homes with a $250,000 market value would see an approximate increase in property taxes of $9.54 per month.
Critics of the proposal counter that libraries are a legacy amenity that are used less and less, owing to the ubiquitousness of technology that brings information to people via phone, computer and tablets. The most recent figures for library usage (according to the Library): 221,908 total visits to the library in fiscal year 2016. More than 500 programs for adults and kids were hosted with attendance of about 8,500 at those programs. Nearly 300,000 items were checked out at the library during that time. For more information, the library will host the last ‘Community Engagement Drop-In Meeting’ on Saturday, March 18 from 10 am to 12 noon.
The full ballot question for voters reads:
“Shall bonds in an amount not to exceed $10,600,000.00 be issued by the Village of Villa Park, DuPage County, Illinois for the purpose of paying costs of remodeling, improving and building an addition to the existing Villa Park Public Library building, furnishing equipment and acquiring library materials such as books, periodicals, films and recordings and electronic data and storage facilities therefor, and paying expenses incidental thereto, said bonds bearing interest at a rate not to exceed 6% per annum?”