David Giuliani: Neighboring towns subsidize Bradley

May 6, 2018 GMT


Bradley residents might want to thank their counterparts in Kankakee and Bourbonnais.

That’s because residents in Kankakee and Bourbonnais help subsidize the operations of the village government in Bradley, the smallest of the three towns. All of Bradley’s many stores attract Kankakee and Bourbonnais customers, who pay sales taxes that help fund the village’s public works, police and fire departments, among others.

Bradley pulls in about $6.6 million in sales taxes each year. That works out to about $430 per Bradley resident.

Kankakee, which is more than 70 percent larger than Bradley in population, receives about $3.7 million in sales tax revenue, or $140 per resident. Bourbonnais pulls in $2.9 million per year, or $156 per person.

The sales tax rate in each town is 6.25 percent. That’s the minimum under state law, which allocates 5 percentage points to the state, 1 percentage point to the municipality and a quarter percent to the county.

The city of Kankakee just raised its sales tax from 6.25 percent to 8.25 percent, which takes effect in July. The two extra percentage points are expected to bring more than $7 million of additional tax revenue into city coffers. With the new money, the total sales tax revenue will figure to $420 per person, just shy of Bradley’s level.

If Martians landed around here, they would see Kankakee, Bradley and Bourbonnais as one town, not three. A merger of the three towns would eliminate the subsidies to Bradley. Under a consolidation, the money would benefit every neighborhood in the community, not just a few.

Towns lose out when retailers choose to set up outside their boundaries. For example, in the twin cities of Sterling and Rock Falls, nearly all the big stores are in Sterling, so Rock Falls residents essentially subsidize the town across the Rock River. The same goes for LaSalle shoppers going to retail-heavy Peru.

This same phenomenon is seen with property taxes. A school district with a property-wealthy nuclear plant in its boundaries can figuratively pave its hallways in gold, while neighboring schools struggle to find the next dollar.

These are the realities for property and sales taxes. A town like Kankakee is at a disadvantage in raising money to pay for its services. There’s no way around it. At least we should recognize the challenge.

Another slugfest?

A lot of political money is likely headed toward Kankakee-based House District 79.

In 2016, the matchup between Republican Lindsay Parkhurt and Democrat Kate Cloonen brought in more than $4 million, much of it paying for advertising. Even though Parkhurst won, Cloonen more than doubled Parkhurst’s fundraising haul.

This year’s race between Parkhurst and former Rep. Lisa Dugan also is likely to attract loads of party money to pay for relentless attack mailers. The race might well serve as yet another proxy war between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

If you get any attack mailers, bring them by our office or email photos of them to me. We want to test each flyer for honesty.