Voters in Forest Park who turn out on Tuesday to vote in the primary election will find a referendum question. Forest Parkers will be asked to approve an added half-cent sales tax on many goods bought in the village.
Here are the arguments in favor:
Increasing the sales tax will bring Forest Park to parity with neighboring communities which already collect the full amount of local sales tax allowed under state law.
Since stores like Ultra Foods and Walmart draw many of their customers from beyond our borders, much of the sales tax burden will be paid by visitors not residents.
The money collected will be segregated into a special fund to pay only for infrastructure repairs in Forest Park.
Ten years ago the Review supported a village initiative to raise the sales tax by half-a-penny with the promise the money would be poured into infrastructure. We are confident that happened as promised and we are very aware that as a non-home rule community, Forest Park has only limited options on how to raise money for street projects.
On that basis, we fully support this sales tax hike and urge voters to do the same.
But exactly how the village government will spend this new money, if it is granted by voters, is not entirely clear. Asked Monday by the Review Village Administrator Tim Gillian said he has the list of worst alleys and streets and would hope to be able to add more projects to this summer’s work list immediately.
But always looming in any discussion of Forest Park infrastructure is worry over flooding and our very old sewer system.
If referendum approval basically taps out potential revenues for infrastructure, sewer projects must be considered. Commissioner Tom Mannix raised the issue in December when the council voted to put the sales tax measure on the ballot. He suggested using the nearly guaranteed revenue from the half-cent hike to fund a major bond which could be used, hopefully along with major matching grants, to finally address the sewers.
We think a thoughtful and planned discussion of that topic ought to be put on an April village council agenda if the referendum passes. Thoughtful as in approaching the topic with an open mind and a long-term perspective. Planned as in consulting finance experts to lay out plainly what bonding options look like with the annual revenue anticipated to service the debt from this sales tax hike. Planned as in understanding the scope of a sewer project to solve flooding issues and how such a plan might be phased in over years.
By all means Forest Parkers should pass this referendum. But then the village’s political leadership must discuss and make a plan for using the proceeds.
Sercye for county board
With the Democratic primary now less than a week away, we remind readers of our endorsement of Blake Sercye in the race for the 1st District of the Cook County Board. In a crowded field of some talent, we found Sercye to be the strongest choice for progressive change to this important level of government.