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Oswego Trustees Vote to Increase Sales Tax Rate

Jul 08, 2015 09:31AM ● By Steven Jack

Oswego Trustees Tuesday night to increase the village's sales tax rate by .75 percent on everything except groceries, prescription medication and cars. (Photo courtesy of Oswego Tourism Bureau)

Shoppers in Oswego will see an increase on some of their sales receipts starting Jan. 1.

The Village Board Tuesday night approved a .75 percent increase to the village’s sales tax rate that will impact purchases on everything except medications, cars and groceries. The increase will be used to help fund an estimated $2 million to $3 million in annual road repairs and maintenance and future capital improvements, including a new police station.

The tax increase is estimated to bring the village an additional $2.8 million each year. Trustees voted 5-1 with Scott Volpe being the lone no vote. The additional tax will put the total sales tax on discretionary items sold in the village at 8.5 percent. By comparison, Plainfield’s total sales tax rate is 8.75 percent, Aurora 8.5 percent and Montgomery 8.25 percent.

Former village trustee candidate Diane Selmer addressed the board during its public comment session, saying Oswego’s current total 7.75 percent is a draw to shoppers from outside of town, and the higher rate will drive them elsewhere.

“It’s a selling point that we have a lower sales tax,” she said.

Trustee Volpe argued that the village has enough money in annual motor fuel tax receipts, budget surpluses and annually increasing existing sales tax receipts to fund the road program. In addition to the new sales tax funds, the village will continue to use about $500,000 in state motor fuel tax money to pay for its annual road program. 

“This seems like an awful lot of money, and I don’t see where right now that we need that much money from our taxpayers,” Volpe said.   

Trustee Pam Parr said she was uncomfortable drawing down budget surpluses and reserves to pay for future road improvements. She also argued that a new police station must be completed in the coming years. Increased sales tax funds not used for road improvements will be set aside to help fund the construction of a new station, which is projected to cost at least $20 million.

“We have to do a new police department; we just have to,” Parr said. “We are seven or eight years behind (on that project).”

According to village documents, the current police facility was built in 1991, and was meant to last 20 years and accommodate 50 employees. Today, the police department has 69 full-and part-time employees, said Chief Jeff Burgner. 

A new police station is just one of several unfunded capital improvements trustees were presented with Tuesday night. 

Other large-scale unfunded projects include the eventual widening of Wolf’s Crossing Road and a new $30 million to $40 million water treatment facility. The village's current water supply is predicted to dry up within the next 40 years, and drawing water from the Fox River has been floated as one possible new source. 

Village President Gail Johnson acknowledged the sales tax increase is likely to be unpopular with many; however, it must be done to secure the village’s future, she said.

“The safety of our residents comes first—whether they are on the street, in their homes, or the water they drink,” Johnson said. “In leadership, responsibility comes before popularity. (Tuesday night’s) vote was the right and responsible thing to do.”