Thoughts on the Referendum

Howard’s April 4 referendum to expand police, fire, and EMT services has been vigorously debated by residents.

I will vote YES on the referendum because I think it is important to make sure response times from these services continue to meet the needs of our growing village.

I’ve been hearing many arguments against the referendum, however, and I think it would be helpful to include them here along with some of my thoughts.  This should help you better understand my perspective and decide if you would like to support me or a different candidate for Howard Village President…

We just had a huge tax increase, so we shouldn’t need another one right away.

We did have a large tax increase, and it came as a surprise to many.  While I believe that increase could have been communicated to residents much better, I do believe it was necessary.  Inflation can hit government just as hard as it does our household budgets, so if we want the same level of services from government, we need to be prepared for tax increases.  In Howard we are also seeing the impacts of population growth in addition to inflation.  That growth is putting pressure on our public safety teams to maintain adequate service levels.  This referendum is about making sure help will arrive in a timely manner if you ever need to dial 911, and in my book that is worth another tax increase.

Our taxes shouldn’t need to go up for additional public safety services because all the new development throughout the village should be able to pay for it as that increases the tax base.

While new development does increase the tax base, I think this is more about timing.  Yes we are seeing lots of new development in Howard, but it takes some time for that revenue to come in as the new units are built and sold.  Our public safety needs are immediate.  Also, a lot of the new development is related to TIF districts, where the new tax base revenue is already set aside to pay down the village debt for the infrastructure projects needed to support the new development, or as incentives to developers for completing their projects.

We should trim the budget in other areas to pay for additional police, fire, and EMT positions.

I’ve heard this suggestion a few different times, but never does it come with any ideas on what we should cut.  My opinion is that our village runs a pretty efficient operation and there really isn’t much room for cost cutting in the operational budget.

If we didn’t spend so much money on the Howard Commons Apartments and the Village Center, we wouldn’t need to raise taxes for public safety services.

This statement isn’t really accurate because those projects were financed with debt as part of a TIF district, while salaries for public safety staff come out of the ongoing operational budget.  The TIF has no direct impact on money available for the public safety budget and vice versa.  Think of it as two different pots of money.  There are disagreements about making investments in these projects, but that is a separate issue from how we fund public safety.

With all the new development increasing the tax base, will they increase the tax base enough to offset the additional costs they bring to the community?

This last one isn’t so much an argument against the referendum, but the person that shared it with me raises a great question about whether the new development is sustainable as costs continue to rise.  And while the village does publish a 5-year financial forecast, I don’t think any analysis has been done that specifically addresses this question, directly linking new development to how much it increases village operational costs.

This is why my Vision for Howard includes a balanced approach to development that would preserve more green spaces and would go a little easier on infrastructure spending and TIF districts.  This is where I see opportunity for the village to make better choices in terms of providing long term value to taxpayers, as we can slow the growth of future budgets.  I’d even like to see some reforestation efforts in some places rather than turning every piece of land into a new subdivision…

…But I digress.  Let’s return to the public safety referendum and wrap things up:

We should vote YES on the referendum for the following reasons:

  • We need our police, fire and EMT staff to maintain excellent response times for our citizens in need.
  • Our village is growing, and expanding services to meet the needs of all citizens makes sense.
  • There are no great alternatives to trim the budget in other areas to make up the difference for these new positions. Home Page

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