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How Tax Flew Under Radar, Why Niles Passed It

Village did not ask for public input, though another proposed tax increase will get a public hearing. The finance committee chair said the sales tax option was least likely to cause hardship.

 

Many Niles residents were caught by surprise when the passed a sales tax increase Tuesday. It had only been briefly discussed in village board meetings in November and December. 

In those months, trustees were considering how to fund a big-ticket item--the modernizing of Niles' sewer system to help prevent the flooding of homes. At the November board meeting, Village Finance Manager Scot Neukirch presentedThose included a property tax, sales tax and fee based on what percentage of property owners' lots are impermeable. 

Earlier:

Trustee Joe LoVerde said Friday that the idea to go with the sales tax originated  at a  stormwater committee meeting, and then the finance committee gave its consensus at its meeting. LoVerde chairs both committees.

Proposed tax was not publicized

Committee meetings are public, but seldom attended by anyone other than committee members.

When asked whether the village notified residents or the business community that the village board was considering a sales tax, LoVerde responded, "Not to my knowledge."

Thus, most people did not learn a sales tax was on the table until the Jan. 24 village board meeting, and as a result, the public did not get much of a chance to ask questions or express opinions on the sales tax.

On Wednesday, George Van Geem, the village manager, said that the public could have commented on the sales tax during the finance committee, stormwater committee and committee of the whole meetings which took place after Neukirch made his presentation in late November.

Public hearing for one tax, but not the other

The village is considering a plan that would in effect impose an additional 0.25 percent and this proposed hike will get a public hearing, scheduled for Feb. 28.

Golf Mill originated this plan in order to get revenue to modernize its infrastructure. The village would declare Golf Mill a "business district," in the sense of that term defined in Illinois law. That would give the village the power to charge the additional sales tax and funnel it along to Golf Mill.

So why is the proposed Golf Mill sales tax increase getting a public hearing, while the village-wide sales tax increase passed Jan. 24 did not?

"The state law that deals with business districts requires a public hearing," Van Geem said Monday. 

No hearing was required for the village-wide Jan. 24 sales tax increase because home-rule municipalities, like Niles, have the authority to raise taxes and fees to fund the normal course of doing business, he said.

"You don't need to have a hearing every time you raise a fee or tax, if you're home rule," he explained.

Sales tax called least hardship

The fact that non-Niles residents pay the majority of Niles' sales taxes helped shape their decision.

"We would have had to raise property taxes to a level that would have caused a hardship for some residents," LoVerde said. 

"Seventy percent of sales tax revenue generated is from non-residents (of Niles). It seemed that the least hardship put on people would be sales tax."

County lowers tax, Niles raises it

LoVerde also said officials considered the fact that the .25 percent tax increase would come at an opportune time, since Cook County lowered its sales tax by .25 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

"One of the contributing factors was that tax would remain the same (in Niles) because of Cook County lowering it," he said. (Niles sales tax stood at 9.5 percent last year, went down to 9.25 percent on Jan. 1, and will rise to 9.5 again on July 1, when the Niles village board's newly-approved tax goes into effect.)

Many not aware of proposed tax hike

Many Niles business owners Patch contacted after the board's vote did not know a sales tax increase had been on the table.

"I did not have an opportunity to voice an opinion," said Joe Reichert, the owner of Amling's Cycle. He also wondered aloud if the board thought no one would notice the tax hike due to the county's lowering of its sales tax.

He qualified that, though, by saying "Niles is usually pretty good at taking care of business people."

Board to monitor new revenue

At Tuesday's meeting, however, LoVerde stated some conditions for the tax increase so that the money collected would remain accountable to the board. 

The extra .25 percent of sales tax revenue would go into a separate account, he said, and monthly statements from that account would be sent to the board of trustees.

The money from the account could only be used for stormwater relief and pension funding for firefighters and police, he said. And if other sources of revenue were generated for those purposes, the tax could be rescinded.

"We want to keep close tabs on the tax and be sure it's used for the purpose for which it was intended," LoVerde said.

He also stressed the importance of relieving flooding problems for homeowners, which are caused by the inadequate capacity of the village's sewers, he said. LoVerde and the stormwater committee have been studying the flooding issue in depth in the three years since the severe 2008 floods.

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Clark Kent January 31, 2012 at 01:44 PM
PATCH (Aug. 24, 2011): "According to a notice prepared by the village, the plan calls for the village to declare Golf Mill a "blighted area" in legal language, for the purposes of making it eligible to become a business district." New signs to greet people driving into Niles: WELCOME TO NILES ! THE BEST BLIGHTED PLACE TO RAISE A FAMILY AND OWN A BUSINESS ! The "notice," whose author we can only assume is Mr. Callero's pal George Van Geem, planned to identify our village as "BLIGHTED" at the same time Mr. Callero twisted and contorted the budget with Mr. Van Geem to lay off otherwise productive village employees to create a special position TO PROMOTE NILES AS A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESSES AND FAMILIES !!!! Since then the administration appointee who filled that luxurious job has resigned after accomplishing Heaven knows what. PATCH reported last summer that Gold Mill couldn't get a loan to rework THEIR infrastructure and wanted the village to OK a tax increase just at Golf Mill. More smoke and mirrors. The Callero/Van Geem team should stop spreading pixie dust over the local economy with will-o-wisp projections about "jobs" and "growth" and all that Obamatalk. Let Golf Mill solve its own problems. Keep Niles government out of the "business" of giving special favors. We are already over burdened by a multi-million dollar empty "Free Bus" which was created to serve Golf Mill "friends." Who's serving us ?
Pat Tackett February 29, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Last night the proposed Golf Mill Business District was reviewed at a public meeting before the Niles Village Board. And to concur with Clark Kent above - the General Manager of Golf Mill and his team were primarily "smoke and mirrors". After the public gave input (3 opposed and 2 for the increase), I thought some Trustees had some very good questions regarding the concerns: (1) Who decided the this was a blighted area? - Which was interesting and I have to ask - since the Golf Mill General Manager who is asking for passage referred to Golf Mill as the "Crown Jewel of Niles" - How can it be a "Crown Jewel" and yet he is proposing it is blighted? The General Manager then stated "blighted" was actually "outdated. By that standard my kitchen is blighted and maybe I can get taxpayer funding for this!!!!! (2) The Village should have its own consultant to advise on the legalities of creating business districts - the person there who affirmed that Golf Mill qualifies - while I am sure he is qualified, was hired by Golf Mill. . . (3) Who is the owner or owners of Golf Mill? And it turns out that it has been a single owner for 50 years. Hence, Clark's comments are the same points made by the dissenting voices in the audience: It is the responsibility of the owner to make the updates requested.

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