WESTMONT – In a 5 to 1 vote Monday, the Westmont Village Board voted to implement a 1.5 percent restaurant tax in a move village officials say will help erase a $3 million revenue loss and fund road repairs.
The vote came after the tax was proposed and discussed during a committee of the whole meeting Thursday. At that meeting, several restaurant owners spoke against the eating tax.
Restaurant owners have said the tax would put them at a disadvantage to surrounding communities that do not impose an eating tax and could stunt any growth they’ve had since the downturn in the economy. The opposition continued Monday, with five business owners speaking during public comment.
John Fleming, owner of J.Fleming’s Absolutely Delicious in downtown Westmont, said the tax increase will discourage people from doing business in Westmont.
“I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s going to help bring people to this town,” Fleming said Monday.
Village officials say the 1.5 percent tax will bring in $760,000 annually to the village and alleviate an estimated $3 million loss in revenues after residents repealed home rule status in November.
Repealing home rule forced the village to repeal a 2.5 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and a one-half percent sales tax hike. Both tax hikes were enacted under home rule authority.
The tax also will allow the village to issue $10 million in bonds to use for road repairs throughout town, officials said.
Trustee Bruce Barker, who voted in favor of the tax, said the vote was a tough decision.
“My position is not anything against the restaurants in this community,” Barker said. “I’m not voting against the restaurants; I am voting for increased funding for road repairs.”
Trustee Bob Scott echoed Barker’s comments, pointing to needed funds for road repairs.
“Out of 60 miles (of road) in Westmont, 40 need resurfacing right now,” Scott said. “I think that tells you the gravity of the situation. We’re caught between a rock and a hard spot.”
Other restaurant owners proposed postponing the tax increase, but trustees reasoned the hike was needed now.
“We don’t have time to take small steps to a problem that is this big,” Trustee Steve Nero said. “We owe it to the entire village and residents to tackle the stormwater issues and these roads.”
The only trustee to vote against the tax increase was James Addington, who proposed a .75 percent restaurant tax instead, but that was shot down by fellow trustees.
The 1.5 percent restaurant tax is set to be enacted Sept. 1.
Any impact of an eating tax may be lessened come July 1, when the village’s half-percent sales tax will be rescinded – moving the sales tax in Westmont from 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent