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Hinckley officials seek sales tax increase to fund water tower project

HINCKLEY – What’s scarier: increased property taxes or potential water quality issues?

Hinckley Village Board trustees said both of those scenarios are possible if a 1 percent sales tax referendum doesn’t pass in Tuesday’s primary election.

The village’s 30-year-old water tower is the prime target for funds, should the referendum pass, although Trustee Michael Constant said the state thus far has failed to provide insight on exactly how much annual revenue the tax increase will generate.

Painting the water tower inside and out is a $600,000-plus project, Constant said, and fellow Trustee Jeff Nier, who also is chairman of the Water and Sewer Committee, said the project is long overdue.

“Thirty years is unheard of for a paint job on a water tower,” Nier said. “We’ve been very lucky to make it this far.”

He said as the paint has broken down inside the water tower, it’s caused rusting, and that at the moment, the water quality is fine because all the rust is above the water line. That said, as the paint continues to break down, problems will occur.

“Once the paint breaks down to the point where the water is in contact with the metal, we could have water issues,” Nier said.

If the referendum passes, the village’s sales tax will increase from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent.

“It can’t be any lower,” Constant said.

The water tower project has long been discussed, and Constant said at one point, the project was being considered for this summer. Because trustees decided to try funding it with sales tax revenue, rather than increasing property taxes, the earliest it will get done is in 2019.

“If one minute after midnight, we discover [the referendum] has passed, we’ll be in position to move forward with the project for the summer of ’19,” Constant said.

Both he and Nier said that if the referendum doesn’t pass, increasing property taxes will be reconsidered.

“The sales tax is a way to spread the cost out a bit,” Constant said. “People passing through town will be contributing, buying goods here, paying for services here in Hinckley.”

Road work and other projects are being discussed, but the water tower is the top priority, Constant said.

He said the estimated amount of how much the sales tax increase could generate came up during the village’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, which he said was “sparsely attended.”

“It’s not surprising, but disappointing,” he said.

When he won election to the board in spring of 2016 unopposed, Constant got 286 votes – about 2,000 people live in Hinckley.

“That was during a presidential election year,” he said. “We’ll see if the gubernatorial race is a draw.”

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