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>Click here to view the article and Mayor Donald Tabor's response of why Stickney is the better choice.

By Richard Wronski

Tribune reporter

November 6, 2008


Facing tough economic times, many municipalities have struggled, furloughing employees and cutting back on services like garbage pickups.


Not so in hotel-rich Rosemont, where such belt-tightening is almost unheard of and where officials said Wednesday they have sweetened a favorite perk. Most homeowners will receive a $2,860 grant next year—more than $100 more than the amount doled out this year.


The money is meant to help the 500 or so homeowners maintain their properties, but they're generally free to spend it as they see fit—no questions asked.


"If the residents want to use it to pay for a vacation or to buy Christmas presents, that may very well be," Mayor Bradley Stephens said.

Asked about the village's annual largesse, many residents in the gated community adjacent to O'Hare International Airport pointed with pride to new driveways and windows on their 1950s-era ranches. The improvements often are paid for with the grants.


"There's a new roof on the house, there's a new patio in the back. There's new air conditioning," said Linda Scott, 48, who was sitting on her front steps on a balmy afternoon. "I don't think I'd be able to keep it up if I didn't [get the grants]. I work two jobs the way it is. That money is very helpful."

Rosemont is among only a handful of towns that offer money back to homeowners. Some south suburbs, including Crestwood, provide rebates to help offset property tax bills.


Larry Frang, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said he does not know of any other communities throughout the state that offered such windfalls to residents.


Playing fairy godmother isn't difficult to do in Rosemont, where revenues exceed $40 million a year and where there are more hotel rooms than people—about 5,230 rooms to 4,000 residents.


The late and legendary Mayor Donald Stephens started the practice of awarding the grants. His son Bradley took over as mayor when his father died in 2007 and continued the civic tradition.


The $2,860—the maximum a property owner can receive—is based on the value of a home.


Residents must apply for the grants and must pay income tax on the money.


But other than handing out IRS 1099 forms with the checks, there are no strings, Stephens said.


Rosemont, he said, allocates about $1 million a year for the program. Sound financially, the community has a constantly growing list of hotels and office buildings and can well afford it, the mayor said.


The village hopes the Illinois Gaming Board looks favorably on a Los Angeles entrepreneur's plan for a gambling casino in its entertainment district.


Economically, "we're OK," Stephens said. "Go ask the employees of the village and the residents. They feel that Rosemont is recession-proof."


Edward Victoria, 37, and his wife, Aimee, 32, agreed with the mayor, extolling the virtues of the grant program as they took down Halloween decorations in front of the house where they've lived for six years. With four young children, "we're grateful for it," Aimee Victoria said.


That's not to say every home in Rosemont needs a new roof. Many McMansions have sprouted in recent years amid the modest single-story ranches.


Jim Marnos, 66, said he's happy to use the money for a brick-paved driveway and a tiled front porch.


"It's a matter of reinvesting in the town," said Marnos, a resident for 25 years. "If I live next door to you and my property is crummy, it would affect your property value."

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

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