City Councilman Kevin Coyne called it the largest vote they may ever make on the dais, but that didn’t stop council members from voting 5-4 to start the process to add a half percent home rule sales tax on goods purchased in town, excluding cars, groceries and drugs, to help solve the escalating debt problem.
However some were hesitant to make a final decision on the matter, concerned that just the idea of a higher tax rate would be seen as a negative by those who visit our town- a thought seconded by many.
“There is a challenge here with a perception of a new tax being placed on additional goods being sold here in this town, and perception is sometimes reality,” said Rosemarie Breske Garvey, Chairwoman of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“If Naperville is perceived as a high tax town, just Google ‘tax rate Naperville,’ it’s not going to say ‘except for car dealers,’ your going to get the perception that you have a high tax rate here,” said Neil Gerald, Owner and Dealer of Gerald Nissan Subaru Kia Hyundai.
On top of that, council members were also concerned about the speed at which the sales tax discussion was moving, most agreeing they want more time to consider the options.
“I personally feel, as a caretaker for the city’s finances, that I have an obligation to scrub the budget,” said Councilman Kevin Gallaher.
“My head is not around this issue well enough, and I do not feel that I would be using the gifts and the characteristics that I was selected to use if I were to vote on this tonight,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski.
Others like Judy Brodhead were in favor of a home rule sales tax because of the situation with the State of Illinois.
“The fact that we can’t know what the State will do and this seems to go on month after month after month, I think is something that propels me to want to insulate Naperville from that in a way that we can,” said Councilwoman Brodhead.
Mayor Chirico said delaying a sales tax increase would draw more problems to the city by increasing our debt, thus affecting our triple a bond rating which the city has been warned may be in jeopardy.
“This is exactly what has happened in our state, exactly. We are on a parallel path, we are not as far down, but interestingly the same types of counterpoints are being used that have been used for years in Springfield. ‘Send it back to committee, study it, don’t rush it, don’t solve the problem, lets go talk about it,’ it’s a terrible idea,” said Mayor Steve Chirico.
Councilwoman Becky Anderson agreed, saying the reality is that Naperville needs to be marketable, and the only way for that to happen is to keep an attractive bond rating, only manageable now by a tax increase.
“I hate having a new tax, nobody wants to do this, but I agree if we have to do this, our bond rating is everything, it’s not the point of being able to borrow money, its what it means to corporations, businesses coming to this city.
The discussion on local sales tax as well as how a garbage fee increase would solve the structural deficit of $6.8 million will continue at the next City Council meeting on September 1.
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