The decision to establish Schaumburg's first property tax in the village's 53-year history may not have been a popular choice, but it was needed, Mayor Al Larson said.
"They'll probably throw us out of office in a year and a half, but it's something that you have to do," Larson said. "It's not taken lightly; we didn't just make up a number and throw it out there. There's some real, real costs to the village."
Trustees unanimously approved a $23.7 million tax levy at Tuesday night's meeting, which was moved to the Prairie Center for the Arts as village officials anticipated a larger audience. About 70 attended the meeting with 10 making public comments opposing the levy.
The village's new property tax will add about 8.1 percent to a resident's 2009 tax bill. The village will start collecting in 2011.
Schaumburg officials said decreased revenue from sales, hotel, food and beverage taxes and the state's income tax helped create a $17.6 million deficit in the budget.
Larson wouldn't forecast if the tax would ever be lifted, citing the uncertainty with the economy. He asked if he could "borrow a crystal ball" to predict when the recession would be over.
"Is it going to be over in a year, two years, three years?" he said. "If revenues come back the board certainly would look at cutting the levy."
Residents opposing the tax said they wanted the chance to vote on the matter.
"The people of Schaumburg should fundamentally have a say in this important decision," resident Brian Costin said. "This is a once-in-a-53-year opportunity. I think that is enough to justify a referendum in Schaumburg."
As a village with more than a population of 25,000, Schaumburg qualifies as a home-rule community, granting the village board broader taxing powers without needing to put a question on a ballot. The property tax will cover about $7.5 million in payroll expenses to police, $6.7 million for the fire department, $1.2 million for public works and $8.2 million for police and fire pensions.
No members of the Schaumburg Business Association made public comments on the matter. The association opposes the new tax, saying it places too much of a burden on local businesses when they can't afford spending more money during the recession.
Other residents said Schaumburg wasn't making enough budget cuts and that taxes made the village too expensive to live in. Costin suggested cutting the Schaumburg Trolley service that serves Woodfield Shopping Center and IKEA.
"I don't see much emphasis on cutting expenditures," resident Lenny Stendis said.
Larson pointed to the cuts of 98 full-time jobs over the last three years as evidence of trimming the budget. He said the village faced the prospect of not being able to make payroll in September and said the village had no other choice but to establish the property tax.
Larson said only Elk Grove Village residents will pay lower property taxes compared to Schaumburg, adding the village's property tax will be lower than that in Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Streamwood.
Suburbs that don't levy a property tax include Campton Hills, Carol Stream, Deer Park, Gurnee, Oak Brook, Prospect Heights and Vernon Hills.