Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tax fever spreads from Orland Park to Homer Glen

The poor residents of Homer Glen, the little swamp that could. It formed a local government and the idea was to do better than what its neighbors were doing. But alas, you elect a guy who worked at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange for 14 years and made a fortune, and you find that all he can do is exactly what everyone else does: raise taxes. And worse, without giving much notice to the people who have to pay the tax, the citizens of the village.

Mayor Jim Daley (yes, but don’t make any jokes about being a Chicago Machine Politician like the mini 19th Ward in Orland Park) this week raised the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent using his newly acquired home rule powers.

It came as a surprise to everyone and his difference in raising this punitive tax on residents is that most of the people impacted will be non-residents of the little village just west of Orland Park.

One member of the Homer Township board suggested that the board delay the vote to give residents a chance to be informed about the sales tax hike, which is one of the most regressive forms of taxation out there in today’s depressed economies. But the board was too anxious to leave the confines of caring public leadership to be just like the rest of the neighborhood.

Daley described Homer Glen as the “donut hole” in the surrounding area of growing communities with lots of land that can be developed. Folks. That’s the kind of talk you should be afraid of, not welcome.

Here is what Daley told the Homer Township Chamber of Commerce March 11, 2008 in his “State of the Village Address” – what do these suburban politicians all think they are presidents or something? In it, though, there was not warning of a sales tax increase, just talk about the confusing term “impact fees,” which refers to revenue generated off development not off the backs of the struggling public:

“Our zoning ordinance is also under review which includes the review of our development standards and impact fees. We believe development should pay its own way so that current residents and businesses are not paying for new development. This means making sure that our infrastructure needs are addressed and paid for by new development. This includes road improvements, storm water improvements and the adequate cost effective provision of utilities. Trustee Ward has been working on formulating new impact fee ordinances that will provide additional revenue sources to accomplish many of the Village’s goals. We are also updating our Storm Water Ordinance which will prove to be another benchmark for municipal ordinances. ...

"The Village will be taking a special census this summer. Currently we are
receiving a per capita tax of $134.35 per resident based on the 2004 census
which was 24,083. However, we estimate our population to be between 1100 and
1600 more than that. These are residents that are not counted and therefore we
are not collecting the per capita tax due us for these residents. We have
estimated this loss to be somewhere between $420,000 and $525,000. This is money owed to the Village. We need to make sure every resident is counted. The best time to ensure an accurate count is this summer, so that we can count the
college kids. We will be launching a campaign shortly to educate the residents
on the importance of being counted.

“We anticipate the census resulting in home rule status for Homer Glen. This will provide additional revenue sources for the village such as the creation of additional impact fees. There are over 190 communities with home rule status in Illinois. Studies have shown that home rule communities have the ability to broaden the tax burden beyond the residents and businesses who typically pay property taxes. This is primarily due to the fact that home rule communities have more revenue sources to pick from. The most important aspect of home rule for Homer Glen is the ability to exact impact fees on new development that we can not do as a non-home rule community. A municipal property tax has not been the intention or desire of this Board and absent the revenue that most communities receive through property tax, we have to explore other options. We will continue to recruit more businesses to town – But equally important to recruiting more businesses is making sure they pay their way. We need home rule to make that happen.”

So much for the idea of "impact fees" driving the growth of Homer Glen.

Poor folks in Homer Glen. Welcome to the new world of being over taxed by leaders with big visions of grandeur!

Without even raising the sales tax, Homer Glen already generated some $500,000 just by entering the Home Rule status. But no politician can ever say enough to new taxes and money to spend. "Impact fees!" Right!

As an Orland Park resident, I'll have to re-direct my shopping compass to another Will County community where the sales taxes remain low, like Lockport, where the sales tax remains, after all these years, only 7 percent.

-- Ray Hanania

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