GLEN ELLYN – The majority of Glen Ellyn village trustees support the idea of implementing a 1.5-percent food and beverage tax as a way to fund capital projects, such as a pedestrian tunnel that would make it easier for people to cross the railroad tracks that cut through the middle of downtown.
In a non-binding vote that was taken during the Glen Ellyn Village Board's meeting Sept. 10, trustees said 4-2 they would support the tax. Village President Diane McGinley also said she is in favor of the tax.
If approved by trustees at their Sept. 24 meeting, the tax would be implemented March 1, 2019. Elmhurst, Lombard, Naperville, Downers Grove and Hinsdale are among municipalities that have implemented a food and beverage tax.
"I'm never keen on raising taxes, regardless of what we call them," trustee Mark Senak said. "From my perspective, this really isn't the perfect ordinance. I'd prefer the funds to be earmarked for specific projects and not leave it open ended. But if we want to increase revenue, then we have to invest. And I see this as [as] much of an investment as it is a tax. And frankly, it's an investment in the businesses in our community. I think this is a way that we're trying to provide the businesses with the best opportunity to succeed."
The tax is expected to generate an estimated $825,000 to $1.2 million annually for capital projects, including a downtown parking garage proposed in the parking lot of the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, downtown street and streetscape rehabilitation, a new train station and pedestrian underpass, Civic Center renovations and Roosevelt Road access at the Baker Hill shopping center.
The proposed tax would end after the bonds issued for the different projects would be paid off in about 20 years. The projects would be funded by a number of other sources as well.
The revenues from the new tax would go directly to the village's capital projects fund. Finance Director Christina Coyle told trustees that without funding changes, the village's capital plan would show a $4 million to $6 million deficit after five years.
"We would be looking at getting about $14.5 million, and the majority of that would be for the train station and then using $12.5 million in current funds," Coyle said. "That means funds that we anticipate to receive in future budgets or funds that we currently have on hand. And so we would be looking at a new revenue source of $25.45 million, approximately."
McGinley said she backs the proposed tax and its uses.
"We've lost several opportunities for development because of lack of parking," McGinley said. "So whether or not we perceive that there is a [lack of parking], people who are coming in to invest in our town have identified it as a problem."
Trustees John Kenwood and Gary Fasules both said they would vote against the proposed tax.
"We really have to look at what are our needs and our wants," Fasules said. "Are a lot of these things that we're trying to do wants? I think we have a lot of needs that we haven't even addressed that we can address – infrastructure issues that we may have that no one sees because they're all underground. Sewer, floodwater, things like that. Those are the types of projects that I'd like to see invested in."
The tax is a proposed 1.5-percent tax on the purchase price of prepared food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that have been prepared for immediate consumption, and alcoholic beverages sold in their original container for consumption off premises.
For example, the tax would add 75 cents to a $50 bill at a restaurant, officials said. For a $15 case of beer purchased at a liquor store, 23 cents would be added to the bill.
Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors President Steve Thompson said the chamber is supporting the proposed tax as a way to help pay for various capital projects, including parking garages.
"The only issue that chamber members and the merchants speak to me about is the lack of parking for their customers, their employees and the vendors that come into the village," Thompson told trustees. "The chamber members would like to see two parking garages – one on the north side of town and one on the south side of town. We are in support of the food and beverage tax and in support of building two garages here in the central business district."