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Local

Geneva aldermen rescind 2% restaurant tax

'I don't think it's fair'

GENEVA – After more than 90 minutes of debate, the Geneva City Council voted 6-4 on April 17 to rescind its 2 percent places for eating tax.

Fifth Ward Alderman Tom Simonian, who had made the tax one of the cornerstones of his failed campaign for mayor, urged the council to rescind the tax.

The tax would have been collected by restaurants and passed on to the city, bringing in $1.5 million in revenue that officials said they needed for capital expenses and infrastructure repair and maintenance.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Simonian said. “They should not be unfairly burdened with that."

Simonian said the city’s balanced budget has reserves and a $1.26 million surplus. Simonian also said officials were unwilling to negotiate more property taxes from Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital because they did not want to burn or disrupt its relationship there.

“But we were willing to disrupt the relationship with 90-plus restaurant owners,” Simonian said. “A half-cent citywide sales tax [increase] is a fairer tax that everybody shares in and everybody is able to take advantage of.”

Simonian said restaurant owners understand that increasing the city’s sales tax needs to be passed by referendum, and – if it isn’t – then the places for eating tax would be the fall-back.

First Ward Alderman Mike Bruno said that tapping its reserves would impact the city’s credit rating.

“We’ve got serious capital needs that have to be addressed,” Bruno said. “The places for eating tax is still the right solution for Geneva.”

Several restaurant owners continued their objections to the places for eating tax, saying even though it is a pass-through tax, it would be enough to impact their businesses and turn customers away.

But 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra said it is not just the restaurant owners who have challenges.

“Nobody says anything about the city’s challenges,” Maladra said. “This [keeping the tax] is the responsible thing to do.”

Wildwood owner Patrick Neary challenged the city’s needs.

“We were not given one piece of paper with what capital projects or infrastructure needs are,” Neary said.

Bruno, Maladra, 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg and 4th Ward Alderman Jim Radecki voted against rescinding the tax.

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