As this Council marches ahead with tunnel construction some of you have asked, "Why bother to vote on the citizens' advisory referendum on March 18th? It is your opportunity to voice your opinion as to whether or not we want to be No. 1 at $362 per ERU.

In the most recent census of local government, which includes anything below state level, there are 3,031 counties, 16,364 townships and 19,522 municipalities across the country.  Around 1,500 local governments have implemented the controversial stormwater utility fee, with under 20 in Illinois.

Fees and formulas vary.  The most popular is to charge a fee based upon impermeable (or impervious) surface, the theory being that water runs off of these surfaces, and goes somewhere else.  It's called an ERU or Equivalent Residential (Runoff) Unit - the average amount of impervious surface from the typical single-family lot; the fee equaling a base rate multiplied by the number of ERUs.  

For example: Highland Park charges a base rate of $6.00 per property per month with an additional fee of $5.00 per month for 1 IAU (impervious area unit equaling 2765s.f.) and properties greater than 1 IAU are charged $5.00 per month multiplied by the property's number of IAUs. Northbrook charges $1.00 per 1,000 gallons of water "consumed" which adds around $27.00 per quarter to the average utility bill.  In Downers Grove, 1 ERU equals 3300s.f. with 3 tiers for single-family residential properties: 1-2500s.f. = .75 ERU and $6.71 per month, 2500s.f.-4000s.f. = 1ERU and $8.94 per month, and 4001-7000s.f. = 1.5ERU and $13.41 per month.  Vacant property is charged .3ERU ($2.68 per month) and all non-single-family property is charged by the number of ERUs at $8.94 per month per ERU. 

Significantly, because Downers Grove shifted funding for its stormwater infrastructure system from a property-tax-based to a fee-based system, its property tax levy "Will be reduced by approximately $2.48 million beginning with the 2012 levy (collected in 2013).  The Village portion of property taxes will be reduced by approximately 19%." http://www.downers.us/public/docs/Stormwater_%20Management/SWU_FAQ.pdf

For the next 30 years, Winnetka's stormwater utility fee is using an ERU of 3400s.f. with a base rate of $262 per ERU, or $21.83 per month (2014), increasing to $362 per ERU, or $30.16 per month (2016), multiplied by your property's number of ERUs. Winnetka will have the distinction of the highest stormwater fee in Illinois, and according to information released by the Village, 3rd highest in the country for the next 5 years, then 2nd highest as the Mission Hills, KS fee will expire, or sunset, in 5 years.  

While approving this exorbitant new fee, this Council also approved a budget loaded with increases:  property tax levy - up 2.5% (1.7% + .8% new development), water rates - up 4%, electric rates are adjusted yearly and are trending upward (we cannot aggregate), and sewer rates - up 10%.  

Cash reserves are at an all-time high with over $40 million in the bank before the tunnel bonds were issued.  A Trustee at a recent public meeting confirmed that the Village now has $60 million in cash reserves earning around 00.18% interest.  This includes the almost $20 million in two recent bond issues for the tunnel, for which we are now paying 4.1% and 4.59% interest.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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