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Controversial $4M plan to fix failing Winfield roads will cause property tax hike

Published: Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 11:03 p.m. CDT

WINFIELD – With a split vote of 3 to 2 from its Village Board, Winfield will issue general obligation debt certificates to pay for more than $4 million of roadway work.

Nearly 30 percent of Winfield's roads are in failing condition. If the village were to wait five years to complete repairs to bring the roads up to Illinois Department of Transportation standards, the project cost would rise to $10 million, Village Manager Curt Barrett said.

"What has happened for years is the repair and payments and maintenance of roads has been kicked down the road, and that's gotten us into the hole we're in with our funding," Barrett said.

However, not all village trustees agreed with the numbers presented by village staff at the Nov. 21 meeting. Some said the public is being misled by the projected rise in costs.

"The math in this village always seems to be highlighted to the highest possible amount of fear that we can raise in the village," said Trustee Tony Reyes.

Reyes said the village should not move forward with the issuance of $4.4 million of general obligation debt certificates without first getting permission from the public. He was joined in opposition by many residents who spoke against the plan at the meeting.

A year ago, a citizen-sponsored referendum measure that was passed by voters said the village should come to residents with a referendum if they want to spend more than $1 million on a new project in a single fiscal year. However, the referendum question was non-binding.

The issuance of certificates to fund the roadwork was supported by Trustees Jack Bajor, James McCurdy and Phillip Mustes, with Reyes and Trustee Tim Allen in opposition.

"If we're trying to appeal to people to invest money in the village, large sums of money – whether they're buying here, building here, investing here in a business – we need to show them that we have the courage and the stability, the responsibility and the maturity, to do what's right and take care of basic services," Mustes said.

The general obligation debt certificates will be repaid by the village during the course of 20 years, beginning with an additional tax levy of about $200,000 in the coming year, Barrett said. The levy for this project will be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

Residents living in a $235,000 house – the village's average home value – can expect to see a $49 increase on their annual property tax bill, he said.

Over time, the repayments for the debt certificates could be supported through sales tax revenues from new developments.

However, Allen pointed to the decision by the Village Board to overturn a commercial rezoning of Roosevelt Road this summer as a setback to bringing new developments to the village.

"This action had the effect of setting the village back two years in a quest for some – including myself – to create sustainable revenues through commercial taxes, commercial taxes that wouldn't involve increasing the tax burden on residents," said Allen, who read from a statement he prepared for the meeting.

Proceeds from the issuance of the debt certificates must be used for Winfield roadwork, Barrett said. Much of the work is planned for the upcoming construction season.

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