When it comes to whether taxpayers of will pay more in taxes to help fund senior services, voters will have the final say.
A special meeting of the Township Board was called Tuesday night to determine whether a special tax levy would be placed on the April 5 ballot, and in compliance with law, a vote was taken of the registered voters in attendance. After the measure passed by a margin of 53-29, the question will appear on the ballot in less than three months.
If the referendum is approved in April, the tax levy will have the owner of a $200,000 home paying an additional $14 a year in taxes. The tax levy will collect about $300,000 annually.
The Oswego Senior Center, which is hoping to receive up to $160,000 of that money each year, was well-represented at the meeting with supporters of placing the measure on the ballot. Bob Wyngard, executive director of Oswegoland Seniors Inc., which runs the Senior Center, said he was happy with the vote. However, he said he sees a lot of work ahead to convince voters of the need for additional funding for the center, especially in difficult economic times.
"I think we have a lot of work to do, and we're looking forward to getting the word out to the voting public about what we do and how we do it," Wyngard said. "What this vote tonight tells me is that there's some misinformation out there and we've got to work to correct that."
Before the vote was taken, residents on both sides of the issue made their cases before the overflow audience assembled in the Township Highway garage. Speakers were limited to two minutes each.
"As a very senior citizen, I'm ashamed to be part of a group that's asking the community to buy my lunch," said resident Judd Peter. "Yes, there are some who need help and I think we ought to help them ... but to ask everyone to pay for a segment of the population is a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars."
Wyngard, who addressed the crowd first, said the township, even though it has the legal authority to do so, has never asked taxpayers for a tax levy to fund senior services.
"Senior citizens have paid tens of millions of property tax dollars in the last 20 years alone," he said. "It seems like it's a really good idea therefore to treat seniors as well as we have when we've raised taxes to support schools, roads, water towers, people in jail and people on welfare."
Resident Tom Todd followed Wyngard, saying he supports helping people in need, but he's not sure the need is truly there.
"If I was a millionaire and I wanted to take my wife to the Senior Center for lunch or to go play for the afternoon, I'm asking people on hard times to chip in a little bit of their tax dollars so I can drive my Cadillac to go get a subsidized meal or an afternoon of entertainment," he said.
Wyngard has said the money is needed to shore up holes the center's $260,000 annual budget. The center relies on grants, donations and funding from the federal government, , Kendall County and the Northeast Illinois Agency on Aging.
The center, which has been housed at the Old Traughber School building on Franklin Street since 2009, serves two meals twice a week to as many as to 150 seniors. The center also offers 16 other types of programs, including regular health screenings.