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Channahon board puts off vote for raising fees on gambling machines

Tom Doud, owner of Channahon Lanes bowling alley, was one of the business owners who spoke against raising video gaming terminal fees at Monday’s village board meeting.
Tom Doud, owner of Channahon Lanes bowling alley, was one of the business owners who spoke against raising video gaming terminal fees at Monday’s village board meeting.

Although the vote to increase video gaming fees was scheduled for Monday, the Channahon Village Board decided to hold off for a few months after hearing from two local businessmen who said their profits would be adversely affected by the rise.

The proposal on the table was to double annual fees for video gaming terminals located in village businesses from $100 to $200 a terminal beginning Jan. 1, 2019, then to increase it to $250 in 2021.

The ordinance originally had rates increasing by $50 every other year until 2042, until trustees shortened the period at their Sept. 5 board meeting.

The fee increase is needed to keep up with the costs of running the village, especially because of “state uncertainty,” Village Administrator Thomas Durkin said.

This week, Tom Doud, owner of Channahon Lanes bowling alley, and Chris Sarris, owner of The Office Bar and Grill, took issue with the fees, saying the eight area businesses that operate video gaming machines are being singled out with the “tax,” and that they should not have to take it upon themselves to make up for village financial shortcomings.

“My issue is why do you have to pick on the eight locations that have these machines,” Doud said. “With the flick of a pen, you’re picking on eight people. Who’s getting taxed on that besides us. ... It doesn’t sound right. It just morally doesn’t sound right.”

“It’s certainly not our intention to pick on anybody,” village President Missey Moorman Schumacher said. “We do need to look at revenue streams. ... It’s a small way for us to recoup. ... We can raise taxes, sales taxes, diesel taxes and gasoline taxes. There’s no way to raise revenues without affecting people. There’s just no way to do it.”

Durkin said the village provides many services, such as police protection, for the revenues it receives.

“You want to keep property taxes down, you want to keep sales taxes down, this is one of the ways that that happens,” Durkin said.

Sarris told trustees that he will already be losing revenue from his bar starting in January, after the village board cut back two weekend hours from Class A liquor license establishments.

“I just lost two hours on the weekends,” Sarris said. “You guys think you can come in and take your share of it. ... There’s only so much I can keep taking and still keep supplying the village every year out of my pocket. It is our income.”

Trustee Patricia Perinar said staff did a lot of research into the fees other municipalities were charging for video gaming terminals. Home rule communities, such as Channahon, may charge what they want for the fees, under the Illinois Video Gaming Act, Channahon Finance Director Heather Wagonblott said.

Communities such as Morris, Coal City and Minooka are not home rule, and are capped at $25 for the fees, Wagonblott said.

Tinley Park and Buffalo Grove charge $1,000 for video gaming fees; Joliet charges $50; and New Lenox, Mokena and Lockport charge $25.

“It’s getting very hard for the small businessman to make it in this state,” Sarris said. “It’s kind of discouraging, to say the least.”

After listening to the business owners, Trustee Chantal Host said she would like to postpone the decision to raise the fees.

“I would sooner see these businesses able to reinvest in their businesses,” she said.

Trustees Mark Scaggs, Sam Greco, Scott McMillin and Scott Slocum agreed to hold off on the vote for a while.

“We’ll see how the fourth quarter goes,” Scaggs said.

Village trustees this week also approved contracting with The Fields on Caton Farm to plant new village parkway trees, replacing dead or dying ash trees, at an amount not to exceed $20,000.

The village will share the costs of the program with residents who request it, 50-50. New trees will include Marmo maples, red maples, autumn blaze maples, honeylocusts, zelkovas, elm hybrids, Kentucky coffee trees, red oaks and swamp white oaks.