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Pingree Grove debating how to proceed with referendum
By Lenore T. Adkins | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/19/2010 12:02 AM

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A topic that has been discussed off and on through the years in Pingree Grove is back on again.

The board is talking about asking voters during the November election whether to eliminate a pair of special service area taxes within the Cambridge Lakes South subdivision that residents there pay.

The board hasn't decided how they'll tackle the question just yet and is looking at two options:

• The first would seek a tax-rate increase by adding 31.27 cents to the general tax rate of 12.12 cents, for a total rate of 43.39 cents per $100 of assessed value, which everyone in town would pay. Money generated from the tax - $397,202.40 - would pay for road maintenance in Cambridge Lakes South.

• Option two involves creating a new 31.27-cent police protection tax for all residents that would generate $397,202 in the first year. Money from the tax would fund the police department, but officials would eliminate both special service area taxes. And rather than Cambridge Lakes South residents paying a separate tax for snow removal, lawn mowing and other related services, the village instead would pull money from the general fund to cover those expenses, Village President Wyman "Clint" Carey said.

But either way it goes, it appears to be pitting one neighborhood against several others in town.

"It's definitely a divisive issue," Carey said. "People are going to feel like it's unfair no matter which way you go, and that's why it should be left to the voters to decide."

Cambridge Lakes South resident Ryan Hallgren welcomes the referendum, because he doesn't think it's fair that the rest of Pingree Grove isn't sharing the burden of paying for his special service area tax.

"I'm all for this," Hallgren said.

But former Pingree Grove Trustee Richard Stramaglia, a Heritage District resident, said the referendum proposal unfairly benefits Cambridge South residents, who make up the town's majority and likely will come out in droves to approve the question if it reaches the ballot.

Heritage district residents, he said, can't compete with that.

"It's unfair to tax us to pay your bills," Stramaglia said.

Carillon resident Lee McNeil, who is retired and living on a fixed income, agreed.

"We are taking care of our own thing, which is what we expect you to do," McNeil said.

The board is expected to take action on the matter in June.