Following a public hearing on the matter, city officials differ on whether or not to implement a home-rule sales tax in Woodstock — and if so, how much the city should charge.
The City Council is considering increasing Woodstock’s sales tax on general merchandise. The tax rate could rise from 7 to 8 percent, although officials have the option to approve a lesser increase, or none at all.
Most council members said they supported some type of tax increase, but Councilman Jim Prindiville is flatly against a sales tax hike without a referendum on the issue.
“I’m opposed to any increase in our sales tax. I think it’s going to drive business away,” Prindiville said. He criticized city officials who say the increase could help pay for street repairs.
“We need to prioritize our spending in a way that meets the needs of the residents and businesses in this community, and we should not have to raise the sales tax to repair our streets,” Prindiville said. “That’s a fundamental function of our city.”
But other members of the council pointed to a reduction in the city’s property tax levy as a reason they might support raising the sales tax. Among them is Councilman Mark Saladin.
“The only reason I’d definitely consider [the increase] is because we’ve done our 10 percent reduction in our levy for property taxes,” Saladin said. “We do need to do some road improvements.”
Saladin said he hasn’t made up his mind as to how much he thinks the sales tax should increase.
Dan Hart, who owns a restaurant and bar, said he stands to lose money if the city raises its sales tax, but he still supports an increase of between 0.75 and 1 percentage point because he wants to see more roadwork completed in Woodstock. He prices some items to include tax but said he won’t be raising the price of beer by a few cents a glass.
“As a business owner, I don’t want to see taxes raised,” Hart said. “I just don’t see that we really have an option. The money’s got to come from somewhere.”
Councilman Gordie Tebo favors a 7.75 percent sales tax rate — an increase of 0.75 percentage points — to match the rate in Crystal Lake.
“We are attracting more retail and restaurant business in the city, and a lowered property tax offset by a higher sales tax makes sense. If I make any purchase in Crystal Lake, I am paying a 0.75 percent tax, which they use for their roads,” Tebo wrote in an email. “Why not charge the same from our visitors? I am sensitive to the effect it may have on our bigger, locally owned businesses, but I am hoping their long history, good products and excellent customer service will help prevent them from losing customers.”
Councilman Mike Turner said he supports increasing the sales tax by a full percentage point, up to 8 percent, although he wants to make sure the money goes only to streets and related infrastructure.
“If we want to balance out the mix of property taxes vs. other taxes we pay at a local level, the sales tax makes sense and it works,” Turner said.
Mayor Brian Sager, too, supports raising the sales tax, although he said he’ll await the council’s discussion at its Sept. 19 meeting before determining what rate he would back.
“I believe that a sales tax, as I expressed earlier in the year, is an appropriate way for us to maintain the reduced municipal property taxes and also fund street improvement needs,” Sager said. “Not only does it provide a sustainable revenue source, but it also spreads the burden across visitors to the city as well as residents.”
Councilwoman Maureen Larson was unavailable for comment.