28 Jun Westlake Adding New Sales Tax | Additional 0.75 Percent Tax Will Be Used To Pay for More Paver Bricks to Replace Asphalt
NEWSPAPER: PEORIA JOURNAL STAR
AUTHOR: NICK VLAHOS
PEORIA — Paying an additional 80 or so cents for a $108 microphone doesn’t necessarily bother Jeremy Bracken.
Paying an additional tax for a purchase at Westlake Shopping Center is more troublesome in principle.
“It’s such a small amount. But that doesn’t mean it’s right,” Bracken said recently as he exited a music store located in the Northwest Peoria plaza, boxed microphone and receipt in hand.
“There’s a lot of things that we pay an extra 80 cents for here,an extra 80 cents for there,” the Metamora resident said. “If you do a lot of small increases, it isn’t a big deal.
“But look at gas. Remember when it was cheap? It went up, and it’s not a big deal. Now it’s four or five dollars (a gallon). At that point, it’s too late.”
After Aug. 1, it’ll be too late to save those extra pennies on many Westlake purchases. That’s when most stores in the shopping center will begin to charge a 0.75 percent sales tax in addition to the 8.25 percent Peoria standard.
The new tax, which the City Council approved Tuesday night, would add 7.5 cents to a $10 purchase. Groceries are exempt.
Tax revenues are to repay a $2 million loan for paver bricks that are to replace asphalt in the northern portion of the Westlake parking lot, according to city officials. Work is to begin next month. Excess tax revenue is to fund capital improvements and maintenance of common areas.
“That’s a lot of money to do a parking lot, but that’s because of the special type of construction, special type of landscaping and the special type of configuration that goes into doing that,” Westlake attorney Bob Hall said.
In 2010, pavers were laid in the southern portion of the parking lot. An additional Westlake property tax was levied to pay for that. But the tax is becoming a burden on tenants, Hall said.
Pavers cost more than asphalt but last longer and are more pleasing aesthetically, according to Hall.
“We think there’s (enough of) an ambience and shopping environment at Westlake that this isn’t going to bother people,” Hall said about the tax.
The renovations have helped revitalize Westlake over the past six years, according to Hall. In 2009, the shopping center accounted for about $300,000 in city sales taxes, he said. This year, that figure is expected to be about $1 million.
“There are new tenants that are in that shopping center that we did not have in Peoria before,” City Manager Patrick Urich said.
The Westlake overseer, Cohen Development Co. of Peoria, is able to assess taxes through city creation of a special service area, which in this case is limited to the shopping center. SSAs allow taxes to be raised and spent, usually on infrastructure upgrades, in targeted areas of a municipality.
“These are quasi-public improvements,” developer Les Cohen said. “We’re not getting any money out of this.”
SSAs also are to fund part of the cost of the proposed Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Northwest Peoria.
Westlake is the only shopping district in Peoria to form an SSA, Urich said. Some council members expressed concern this might lead to a rash of self-taxing shopping areas that could make it difficult for the city to increase its overall sales tax, if needed.
“We are setting ourselves up for a public-policy disaster,” at-large Councilman Ryan Spain said.
A city policy tailored to such SSAs is likely to be considered next month, Urich said. It, as well as the concept Westlake is using to pay for infrastructure, might not be tailored enough to suit Bracken.
“When it comes to taxing the community on stuff, I just feel like we have a lot more issues we can spend our money on, like maybe potholes, than spending money on this,” he said.