The village of Forest Park voted Monday to place a referendum seeking a sales tax increase of half a cent on the March 18 ballot to pay for the reconstruction of approximately 50 alleys.

The village would use the money for infrastructure only, said Mayor Anthony Calderone. 

The amount generated yearly is expected to be slightly below $1 million, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. 

It’s a strategy that’s worked in the past. In 2005 the voters of Forest Park voted to impose a half-cent sales tax boost. The village issued bonds in what is now referred to as the “VIP fund,” borrowing $6.9 million to repair alleys and other infrastructure repairs. Over the course of eight years, the village replaced 71 alleys with VIP funds and other grants, Gillian said. 

The referendum question wording would be: “Shall the Village of Forest Park increase the Retailers’ Occupation Tax and a Service Occupation Tax, currently imposed by the Village from ½ of 1% to 1%, pursuant to 65 ILCS 5/8-11-1.3 and 1.4, to be used for expenditure on public infrastructure or for property tax relief or both?”

Commissioner Chris Harris said it was “disingenuous” to add the phrase “or for property tax relief” to the question, since the village had no intention of reducing property taxes. But Village Attorney Nick Peppers said the language was lifted from state statute.  

Commissioner Mark Hosty pointed out that if the village had to pay for infrastructure to replace alleys, it would come out of the general fund and ultimately from property taxes.

If the voters approve the tax boost, Gillian said the village would have the option to use the money to steadily replace alleys on a regular basis. According to the village’s engineering firm, 53 alleys are currently in “poor” condition. Six Forest Park alleys are rated “unserviceable” — 300 block of Elgin/Harlem, 7700 block of Adams/Wilcox, 900 block of Dunlop/Lathrop, 100 block of Marengo/Elgin, 900 block of Troost/Dunlop and 400 block of Elgin/Harlem. Alley repairs cost between $50,000 and $250,000. To repair the six unserviceable alleys would cost $789,910, the engineers reported in December.

The village could also issue another bond for $10-11 million to put toward a flooding and sewer system overhaul, Commissioner Tom Mannix, commissioner of Streets, said after the meeting. He said a bond issue could be used to get grants from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the state of Illinois and the federal government to pay for sewer upgrades. 

“It’s a first step to doing a sewer separation,” Mannix said.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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