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Flossmoor Asks Residents to Pay for New Water Mains

The Village of Flossmoor is proposing a referendum in the Nov. 6 general election to ask residents whether they wish to approve the use of property taxes to foot the bill for a $7.28 million overhaul of the 90-year-old water main system.

The Village of Flossmoor is looking to pay for a $7.28 million water main replacement program using bonds that will be repaid through property tax revenues. However, in order to do that, the village first needs approval from residents in the form of a referendum on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election.

Flossmoor's water main system is 90 years old, and the village believes it's time for an upgrade. The village currently loses one out of every three gallons of water it purchases due to leaks and broken mains. The water pressure and fire flow capabilities of the old mains also aren't up to date and could cause public safety issues if they aren't improved.

"Over time, between leaks and breaks and just mineral deposits in mains, we don't have the type of fire flow that is desired to meet today's firefighting standards," Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said.

The proposed repairs are expected to be carried out over an eight-year plan that consists of three phases, and the $7.28 million in bonds would also be issued throughout the phases, rather than all at once.

"If successful, we would go to bond in year one of the project, year four of the project, and year five of the project," Wachtel said. "So the full impact of the property tax increase would not be felt until year five of the project."

The water main improvement program is going to move forward whether the referendum passes or not. The question at hand on the ballot is whether it will be paid for by the proposed general obligation bond, which uses property tax money, or whether the village will have to use water bill funds to foot the bill, which Wachtel said will be more expensive due to higher interest rates on the types of bonds that would be involved.

According to the village's website, the estimated tax bill increase for a household with a total tax bill of $7,500 would be $98, while households that pay $12,500 or $20,000 could expect to see their tax bills increase by $162 and $260, respectively. Wachtel said these increases would be income tax-deductible for residents, a benefit that would not apply if the project was funded through water bill increases.

Tom Fleming is the head of Flossmoor Residents for the Water Referendum, a citizens' advocacy group to convince residents to vote yes on the referendum.

"The municipal body is allowed to put out educational materials, but they're not allowed to ask citizens one way or the other to vote for or against a referendum like this," Fleming said. He's got a group of about 20 residents working to spread the word by collecting donations to fund signs around the village as well as a postcard and email campaign to spread the word about the referendum. They also reach out to residents in public places like the train station to urge them to approve the referendum. He said their main motivation for urging people to vote yes is saving money.

"The tagline that we're using is 'vote yes to pay less," Fleming said.

The village will be hosting a special meeting at Village Hall on Oct. 30 for any residents who wish to learn more about the water main improvement project.

H-F Patch readers had plenty to say about the referendum on Facebook. Some were less than thrilled about the cost of the project and the tax increase that came with it:

  • Katie Priekulis Franc - "Glad I moved from Flossmoor to Homewood."
  • Leslie Bobb - "This made me reconsider buying a home in Flossmoor. Taxes are already too high there."

However, others saw the project as a necessary burden that has to get done:

  • Stefanie VanderAa Mullin - "What are the choices? It has to be fixed."
  • Larry Klein - "They must be fixed. Got any better ideas?"
  • Renee Boerema Covert - "Flooding basements won't sell homes so everyone's (Flossmoor residents) property values are affected and I don't have a basement. Even in Monopoly this is real life."
  • Lilly Melin - "Sadly, yes we will have to pay, but in the long run it will be worth it."
Juvenal October 25, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The deductibility of taxes is, according to the article, the sole basis for a specious claim that the referendum is the more affordable way to go: "Wachtel said these increases would be income tax-deductible for residents, a benefit that would not apply if the project was funded through water bill increases"
Mark Matthews October 25, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Juvenal, Read closer: "The water main improvement program is going to move forward whether the referendum passes or not. The question at hand on the ballot is whether it will be paid for by the proposed general obligation bond, which uses property tax money, or whether the village will have to use water bill funds to foot the bill, which Wachtel said will be more expensive due to higher interest rates on the types of bonds that would be involved."
Juvenal October 26, 2012 at 04:25 PM
<<The water main improvement program is going to move forward whether the referendum passes or not>> They would have to say that to give a veneer of credibility to the "save money" claim but is that really the case? Since they admit that their inadequate maintenance policies result in water losses the current (recently raised) rates are already gouging residents for the lack of planning by the village: this problem has been 90 years in the making and they decide to spring a tax increase during a recession with the weakest Flossmoor housing market in history? Do you think Flossmoor's employees are sharing the pain, or do you think they keep getting raises and benefits that none of the rest of us do/ What does a Village Employee pay out of pocket per month for family health insurance? The Village needs to prove they have done EVERYTHING they can to cut their costs before going back to the (basically dry) property tax well again. Rolling this out with short notice (so that a small group of vocal and Village-sponsored proponents can get busy while a large majority of opponents do not organize) is Springfield/Chicago style cynical politics at its worst....
Jack October 28, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Give the Flossmoor villagers a choice to opt out of city water by allowing them to drill and pump their own water. I mean where is all that water going? We should do this to stop the possible risk of sink holes that might just might envelop the Village Hall!
Genvieve LaChappele October 28, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I feel sorry for Flossmoor residents. They have a long tax increased filled road ahead of them. At least they will have a good field house to call their own.

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