SPRING GROVE – Spring Grove residents overwhelmingly voted against a referendum to increase taxes to cover police pension costs, but they did not hold the proposal against those who supported it as both Village Board incumbents were re-elected along with a newcomer.
Village Board members Jim Anhalt and Ron Kopke will return to their seats after receiving 600 and 595 votes, respectively, while newcomer Randall Vinyard led the way with 624 votes, according to unofficial election results.
But the biggest issue on the ballot for voters was a proposed tax increase that would have resulted in an additional $338,000 for the village to cover rising pension costs. The new rate would have increased the tax extension limitation from 0.413 to 0.627.
Anhalt, who supported the proposal along with Kopke and the rest of the board, said he was not surprised voters were able to separate the referendum from the Village Board race, and he was glad to gain the support of residents.
“Everybody is tired of paying taxes; I’m tired of paying taxes, but we had to bring it up for people to vote on,” Anhalt said. “They looked at it and said they didn’t want another tax increase. I’m glad they were able to separate the two [issues].”
The reason board members supported the referendum was because of the state’s cuts to local share of tax revenue.
Despite making required contributions, the village’s pension liability increased because of disproportionate pension increases to the revenue stream. While village revenue has increased by less than 2 percent most years, pension costs are on track to increase from a $163,000 village contribution in 2011 to an estimated $332,000 in 2016.
Kopke said with 78 percent of residents voting against the referendum, there would be no plans to bring a similar proposal back any time soon. Instead, he said there would be difficult cuts to make and a dwindling of reserves to meet the legally mandated pension contributions set by the state.
“It was a tough sell, and it’s a tough time to do a referendum,” Kopke said. “Over the years we’ve been cutting money out of our roads budget, and we’ll just continue to do less maintenance work.”
Anhalt and Kopke held off challenges from former Antioch Township chairman Steven Bishop and Ryne Powell, a Republican precinct committee member.
Bishop and Powell were vocal against the idea of the referendum even being on the ballot, but it wasn’t enough to garner sufficient votes, as Powell ended with 497 and Bishop had 408.
Ted Trzaskowski, who could not be reached during the campaign, received 292 votes.