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Burr Ridge Officials Breathe Sigh of Relief

Legislature passes budget that does not include plan to withhold municipal portion of income taxes.

Burr Ridge leaders are feeling a sense of relief that state lawmakers submitted a budget that did not include the municipal share of state collected revenues.

“We are thankful and grateful it was not included,” said a relieved Steven Stricker, Burr Ridge’s village manager. “As we said, if they passed that it would have been catastrophic for the village, but we are extremely pleased they did not include this option.”

Over the month of May Burr Ridge leaders, along with leaders from other state municipalities, lobbied members of the legislature urging them to reject a plan to withhold the municipalities’ share of state income, sales and fuel taxes. Village leaders also asked Burr Ridge residents to contact their representatives and ask them to oppose the proposal.

Mayor Gary Grasso, the newly elected president of DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, said the lobbying effort paid off, but vigilance is still necessary. He said he’s hearing rumors that lawmakers may revisit this revenue notion in the fall veto session.

“The lobbying effort was successful and the legislators understood the mayors would be extremely critical of them in the fall,” Grasso said. “I think their plan died only because of the vociferous opposition from the mayors and managers.”

A plan floated by some members of the Senate Republican Caucus would have kept up to $300 million so the state could pay off a backlog of unpaid debts.

 It was a move that raised the ire of municipal leaders who saw the legislative proposal as balancing the state’s budget on the backs of municipalities. State legislators bandied about plans that included multiple amounts for withholding, anywhere from 5 to 10 percent, which could have ranged from $150,000 to $800,000 for the village of Burr Ridge. While that doesn’t sound like a lot of money for a village to lose, Burr Ridge has an annual operating budget of $8.2 million. Stricker said a loss of up to 10 percent of their annual budget would endanger core services, including police, fire and public works. If that had happened, the village would have faced difficult choices – cut essential services, or raise property taxes.

“It would have been catastrophic, it would have been a real serious issue if we had to make those choices,” Stricker said.

Grasso said as the economy worsened the village responded by paring down on personnel by cutting 10 percent of the village’s full time work force and eliminated other services for a total of more than $1 million in cuts. Grasso was an outspoken proponent of the withholding plan. He spo

Stricker said he and other leaders were carefully watching budget procedures until the late hours of May 31 when legislators agreed to a state spending plan. Once they saw the budget did not contain the provision, they breathed a collected sigh of relief.

“We’ve been doing the best we can in this economy trying to maintain a balanced budget and not have to resort to raising taxes,” Stricker said.

Illinois municipalities have been receiving a share of income taxes since 1969. The revenue is collected in the Local Government Distributive Fund. The state collects the money and sends it to the municipalities each month. From its creation until the January 2011, municipalities and counties received 10 percent of all state income taxes paid. Now they receive only 6 percent, despite an increase in state income taxes passed by the legislature during the veto session. This proposal would cut that amount even further.

According to the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference the $300 million proposal amounted to a decrease of $23 for every person in every county community. A municipality with a population of 10,000 people would have lost $230,000 out of its budget.

As head of the conference, Grasso said he intends to make the organization more politically active in Springfield so the state does not try to balance its budget on the back of the municipalities. He said the organization cannot afford to take a passive role while the economy is weak and the state carries as much debt as it does.

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