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Protesters target DuPage County's proposed stormwater utility fee

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 11:14 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman)
Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com Two cars are stranded in the middle of 7th Street and Cumnor Road in Downers Grove, while a third is being towed out in the background, on April 18.

Signs reading "Stop the Church Tax" and "No Rain Tax" bobbed up and down North County Farm Road before a DuPage County Board meeting Tuesday in protest of the recently signed bill that gives the county authority to charge property owners a stormwater utility fee.

A standing room crowd crammed into the DuPage County Board room to voice their opinions on the bill. At several points during the meeting, Board Chairman Dan Cronin commented on the protesters' cheers and applause, asking them to respect decorum.

During the meeting's public comments, local resident Tom Sutton said the bill was rushed too quickly.

"It wasn't discussed. So you tell me, it's one of the most important bills that affects everybody in this county, and it wasn't talked about," he said, pointing out that several DuPage County politicians in the Illinois Senate did not vote in favor of the bill.

"This is Springfield politics at its best, Springfield politics have come to DuPage County and it's time for it to go back to Springfield and have DuPage County go back into the hands of the people," he said, "and people don't want this bill."

Cronin has said the county stormwater fee would be more equitable because a fee would be based on the amount of stormwater displaced by a property.

"If you're a big developer and you put down a large, 50,000-square-feet parking lot of concrete, and you displace a lot of water to your neighbor downstream, you'll pay more," Cronin said when the House passed the bill. "If you take steps to install semi-permeable pavers and rain barrels at home, your fee will be a lot less, you'll get credit for it. It's the ultimate in responsible behavior policy."

Downers Grove resident Frank Falesch said because there is no planned provision protecting agencies that are currently tax-exempt such as nonprofits, schools or churches from paying the stormwater fee, communities will suffer.

Currently, stormwater services in the county are funded through property taxes, from which nonprofits, schools and churches are exempt.

On top of that, there hasn't been talk of adjusting county real estate taxes to counteract the additional fees, Falesch said.

"I pay my real estate tax, why should I be taxed twice? I pay through the water bill, how are you going to collect your fees? Through another bureaucracy," he said.

Prior to the meeting, the president of Taxpayers United of America called on DuPage County taxpayers to protest the fee.

In a release, TUA President Jim Tobin called it a "rain tax."

“This bizarre bill allows ‘stormwater utility fees’ on all properties in DuPage County, including homes, businesses, schools, churches and forest preserves," Tobin said in a statement. "This could be the largest tax increase in DuPage County history.”

The bill requires a two-year planning and education process before the county can put the fee in place. The county board must approve the proposed fee before it is enacted.

Rates and credits for green stormwater solutions such as permeable pavers, rain barrels, retention ponds and other methods would still need to be set before the proposal moves forward.

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