By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – The 5 percent utility tax the village board imposed on homeowners in 2012 will get more discussion Monday night (May 18).

Mayor Jerry Bolin will present a resolution during the village board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., to put a referendum on the ballot as part of the March 15, 2016, primary election ballot.

Voters will be asked if they want the tax to continue, increasing how much of the tax is used for road improvements from the current 55 percent to 100 percent.

Right now the tax is set to sunset Dec. 31, 2019.

But to get it on to the ballot the board will have to adopt the resolution.

Last year, Bolin kept his election promise to revisit the tax.

On Feb. 18, 2014, he called for a motion to have a referendum on continuing the tax placed on that year’s election ballot. Trustee James Kidd made such a motion but it died for lack of a second.

Those refusing to provide the needed second were trustees Robbin Snodgrass, Kate Tammen, Aaron Wilson, Tom Yoe and Erick Beck.

And if February 2014 is any indication of how the board feels, there won’t be any referendum this time around, either.

This is a new day, however, what with two new trustees having been elected to the board. Terri Bailey and Steve Johnson took the oath of office May 4, after winning the District 2 and 5 seats in the April 7 election.

Beck was re-elected in District 6, and he was one of four board members who voted in favor of the tax on Jan. 22, 2012. It was effective March 1.

Bolin votes no

Mayor Bolin was a trustee when the village board voted 4-3 to approve the utility tax.

He voted no, he said during the May 4 meeting, for two reasons:

1. He thought the people did not receive a sufficient explanation for the reason the tax was needed.

2. He thought the tax should have been presented to residents in the form of an advisory referendum before going to the board for a vote.

Beck is the only remaining trustee from that board and he voted in favor of the tax.

Bolin took office as mayor on May 6, 2013. During his first eight months in office the utility tax was addressed to residents in three ways:

1. The village newsletter and village website.

2. Through the news media, with the Post Journal printing several articles that detailed improvements accomplished with utility tax revenue.

3. He asked residents to contact their trustees and voice their thoughts or concerns.

In that way, he said he felt residents had been well informed as to all aspects of the tax.

Tax a necessity

Today, Mayor Bolin said, “I believe the utility tax is a necessity to keep the village roads and infrastructure improvements moving at a pace to eventually overcome the prior years of insufficient maintenance,” he said.

“You can’t overcome a deficit without a plan in which the deficit is erased by the plan. I believe the utility tax meets that requirement.”

He said he also believed residents should have a voice in any decisions on the fate of the tax.

With two new board members in place, he said, “For the second time, I will address the utility tax to the board.”

In a follow-up interview, Trustee Kidd said he probably would make the motion to have the tax put to referendum.

He said he thought the mayor’s revisiting the tax May 4 should have been on the agenda, with a separate heading, not just brought up under administrative reports. “I think Jerry did a good job of revisiting the tax, but he wasn’t transparent about it,” Kidd said.

In addition, he said the tax brings in about $1 million a year for the village. “Does this free up money for something else, like buying the J.C. Penney building?

And in an unrelated matter, he renewed his call for a special election to fill the remaining two years in the village treasurer’s term.

Steve Johnson, who served as treasurer for 10 years, was forced to resign after being elected to the village board on April 7. Mayor Bolin appointed outgoing Trustee Tom Yoe, who chose not to seek re-election, and the board confirmed his choice May 4 in a 7-0 vote.

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