DOWNERS GROVE – The Downers Grove Village Council is considering expanding its cost-sharing program to help tax-exempt organizations such as churches improve their stormwater infrastructure to lower stormwater fees.
The village currently has a cost-sharing program, but the program's budget makes it more conducive for assisting smaller projects found on residential or private lots, as opposed to large church properties where the improvements would be more extensive, Mayor Martin Tully said Monday.
Once certain stormwater improvements are added to a property, the village also offers incentives and credits towards the stormwater fee for the property owner.
The cost-share discussion took place during a budget workshop meeting Saturday morning. Churches have been lobbying the village council for most of the year in protest of the new stormwater fee.
Tully said he supports possibly expanding the cost-share program because it allows the village to work directly with property owners who feel burdened by the fee, as opposed to categorically exempting or removing types of properties from financially contributing to the village's stormwater infrastructure.
This year, Downers Grove introduced the stormwater utility fee that charges property owners directly to pay for stormwater sewer projects. Previously, those projects — such as replacing a stormwater detention basin — were funded by village property taxes. The village says the fee is more equitable because its based on how much water a property displaces.
For most property owners, the change is close to cost-neutral; the village cut property taxes nearly $2 million this year to account for the separate fee. But for property-owning nonprofits, which are exempt from property taxes, it is a new expense.
Village council members said a general consensus showed a lack of support for two other options to lessen the cost of the fee on tax-exempt properties.
One of the options that did not garner support would freeze the fee at its current rate for property-tax exempt organizations. It would continue to increase annually for other property owners until 2028, when revenues would be expected to meet village-set standards.
The other option, which did not see general support from the council, would have the village pay the debt service from a 2008 bond from property taxes, and not the stormwater utility fee, as it does currently.
Councilman David Olsen said he supports looking into the expanded cost-sharing program, and didn't support the other two options.
"To make large scale changes at this point I think would be a disservice to the program," he said Monday.