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Road safety becomes a tax issue in Blackberry Township

Commissioner asks for November rate increase

ELBURN – Blackberry Township Road Commissioner Rod Feece came to Elburn’s October Village Board meeting to ask for the village’s support in a referendum on Nov. 6.

This will be the fifth time that the township has asked voters to approve a tax increase to maintain township roads. Voters failed to pass larger increases requested in 2015, 2013, 2006 and 2004.

This year’s request is for an increase of the road district’s tax of 8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This translates to about $80 annually on a $300,000 home, or about $6.67 per month. The 2015 referendum asked for an increase of $140 per year on a similarly valued home.

Feece said that if the referendum passes, all of the increased dollars will be dedicated to road repairs. He has no plans to hire additional staff or to buy more equipment.

Feece said the township has never passed a referendum for a highway tax increase in the more than 100 years since it was established. During that time, the number of road miles has doubled and the population has increased exponentially. In addition, since 2000, the cost of both asphalt and salt has more than doubled.

Feece said that half of every dollar collected from an Elburn resident comes back to the village to maintain village roads, with the other half going to township roads.

The township has responsibility for maintaining its 60 centerline miles, 54 of which are paved and six of which are gravel.

Feece said that in 2018 the Township Highway District had a total of $841,097 from real estate taxes to pay for Highway Department salaries, equipment and fuel insurance, as well as snowplowing and salt purchases before allocating money for roadway repairs.

A study conducted by Engineering Enterprises Inc. in 2015 found that nearly 65 percent of the roads were classified as being in fair to poor condition. EEI’s engineers said the goal of road maintenance is to extend the roads’ serviceability and delay costly rehabilitation methods.

They estimated that preventive maintenance costs about 15 cents to 50 cents per square foot; resurfacing costs about $1 to $4 per square foot and reconstruction costs about $8 to $12 per square foot.

Regular road maintenance saves money in the long run, Feece said.

The current budget allows the township to resurface about one to one and a half miles per year, he said. If the referendum passes, a minimum of four to five and a half miles of road could be resurfaced annually.

“I hate coming back to the voters,” he said. “But 90 percent of my budget is derived from property taxes. If the referendum doesn’t pass, we will continue to patch as best we can. But the roads will continue to deteriorate. It will become a safety issue and it will affect property values.”

Elburn Village President Jeff Walter said he believes that an increase is warranted, especially given that the township has never had an increase and the cost of maintaining roads keeps going up.

“If we want to keep our roads in good condition, then we’ve got to pay for it,” he said. “I think it’s time.”

For information, contact Blackberry Township at 630-365-9109, ext. 2, or roads@blackberrytwp.com.

The village of Elburn website, www.elburn.il.us, will post a Fact Sheet for residents to review.

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