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Flossmoor residents to consider tax increase on March ballot

At its Dec. 4 meeting, the Flossmoor village board unanimously approved a measure to place on the March ballot a referendum to introduce a 1 percent village sales tax.

If approved by voters, the measure would bring the total sales tax in Flossmoor to 10 percent. It currently stands at 9 percent, with portions allotted to the state of Illinois, Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority special tax.

“The board has discussed this at length, and the No. 1 strategic plan of the board is maintaining financial stability for the village,” said Mayor Paul Braun at the meeting.

“The village is facing a structural deficit of about $500,000 to $600,000 a year going forward, and the board is extremely concerned that by 2020, we’re going to be down as much as $1.5 million. If that were to happen, we would start going through the reserves, and be completely out of money by 2020.”

The board said additional revenue is needed to address several village infrastructure issues, including leaking water mains and crumbling sidewalks, and to maintain vital village services including the police and fire departments.

Braun said the board is looking to cut where it can and increase revenue wherever possible. He stressed several times that the tax would be a “non-home rule tax.” Flossmoor officials have said they do not want the village’s proposal to be confused with the planned home rule referendum that is expected on the March ballot in Homewood.

The sales tax would go into effect in July 2018 and be imposed on all items sold and services rendered in Flossmoor, with the exception of most grocery items, medical devices and prescription and non-prescription medications.

For example:

  •  If you bought a $1 bottle of soda, you would pay $1.10 instead of the current cost of $1.09. 
  •  If you bought a $10 T-shirt, you would pay $11 instead of $10.90.
  •  If you bought a $100 blender, you would pay $110 instead of $109.
  •  If you bought a $1,000 TV, you would pay $1,100 instead of $1,090.

Benefits of the tax, according to the board’s official statement, include easing pressure on property taxes and the fact that the largest impact would be on those shopping at Meijer. The board estimates the shoppers are predominantly non-Flossmoor residents.

Regardless of the proposed benefits, some Flossmoor residents expressed skepticism at the proposal. Larry Kane said he wants more transparency from the village administration about the town’s finances and how money is being spent. 

“How much is the reserve at? If it’s $2 million and we need $500,000 to address our infrastructure needs, is it more fiscally responsible to use money we have than to tax an already overtaxed constituency?” asked Kane, who has lived in Flossmoor for 17 years.

“They’re so worried about the bond rating. We’re at a AA+ rating. So if we use our reserve, what’s the problem if we go down to ‘just’ a AA? If we have the money and we can take the risk, then we should spend it.”

Fourteen-year Flossmoor resident Stefanie Mullin said she doesn’t understand why the board is proposing the tax when it predicted a flood of revenue from the Meijer store.

“They acted like there would be a big revenue windfall,” Mullin said. “Why is this tax increase needed? I don’t understand where the funds have gone.”

The village board cannot officially campaign for the tax increase, but trustees said they will be conducting educational initiatives, including evening and weekend Q&A sessions for residents.

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