by Lynn Meredith
Every election for the past several years, Virgil township has placed a road referendum on the ballot. Every time, the referendum has failed. This year, in the hope of getting the voters to fund the roads, the amount asked for in the referendum has been cut in half.
Virgil has the lowest tax rate in Kane County, with roads that may have to be turned back to gravel because they can’t be fixed and flooding problems that have required some residents to use a boat to get in and out of their driveway, Township trustee James Diehl said.
Highway Commissioner Larry Peterson wondered what it will take to get the referendum passed.
“Twenty to 30 percent of people vote ‘No’ just because it’s a referendum,” Peterson said. “I get so frustrated at the apathy. I’ve given all the evidence I can give.”
The referendum question asks for the limiting rate (under the tax cap) to be increased by the amount equal to .09 percent above the limiting rate for the levy year 2008 and equal to .2705 percent of the equalized assessed value (EAV) of the taxable property for 2009.
In other words, the owner of a house with an EAV of $100,000 will pay $30 per year more in property taxes.
Residents of the villages of Virgil and Maple Park stand to benefit from the extra funding if the question passes, Diehl said. Often, they do not realize what they will get out of the road referendum passing, he added.
â€œPeople who live in the villages say they don’t use the township roads. They only use county or state roads. They don’t understand that 50 percent of the amount levied goes back to the village to help defray the costs of maintaining their streets,â€ Diehl said.
Peterson has made attempts to educate the public on the need for money to maintain the roads. The most recent was a town hall meeting.
â€œWe put up 70 fliers. Not one person from Virgil or Maple Park showed up,â€ Peterson said. â€œThere were 12 people at the meeting.â€
If the township does not have the money to resurface the road or repair potholes, one recourse is to tear up the hard surface and return the road to gravel.
Flooding is another problem the township faces. Freeland Road often floods during heavy rains, and past efforts to pump the water cost the township too much.
â€œIt needs to be tiled. If the water goes over the road, then I have to close the road,â€ Peterson said. â€œI have to cheapen up the job I’m doing and take money away from other things.â€
Diehl said that while Peterson is doing an excellent job prioritizing what needs to be done, he has been forced to cut back. Mowers don’t go all the way to the fence line, snow is pushed back only as far as needed to clear the road, unless another big snow is coming, and less salt is used on snow-covered roads.
Diehl said he hopes the referendum will pass, but remembers how he felt before he got involved in the township.
â€œI used to complain about my tax bills until I found out as supervisor (of Virgil township) the small amount of funds we have to work with. The tax bill is so high,â€ Diehl said. â€œNo one understands that it’s broken down. Not all the money goes to the township. They need to take the time to look at how it’s itemized.â€
He does not want people to get the idea that if it does not pass, Virgil Township officials will quit trying. Because roads take money to maintain, they will continue to try to pass the referendum.