A Westchester man fills his tank at the BP gas station at 11201 W. Cermak Rd. in Westchester during Willie Wilson’s gas giveaway on March 24. | File
Sunday, April 3, 2022 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The village of Westchester is exploring ways of providing gas relief for residents affected by a nationwide surge in the price of gas after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, causing fuel prices to skyrocket.
Trustee Cathy Kuratko introduced the idea of the village implementing a local gas tax holiday this summer.
“In light of the drastic increase in field prices and the hardship that it places on so many of our residents, could we look into what the financial impact would be to the village if we placed a temporary pause on our fuel tax for one month?” Kuratko wrote in an email sent to Westchester Village Manager Paul Nosek on March 25.
Currently, the village imposes a $0.03 cent per gallon local gas tax on all gasoline sold in the village. The tax was implemented in 2019.
“The tax was imposed as an additional revenue source for the village other than property taxes and the idea was also that it would not be a direct tax on its residents, as out-of-town people would also purchase gasoline at these stations,” according to a March 29 village memo by staffers.
According to an analysis by Westchester staffers, the gas tax brings in about $14,000 a month to village coffers.
If the tax were suspended for the months of June, July and August, that would be $42,000 in relief. Staffers explained that, if it gave up this much in tax revenue, the village would still show a surplus budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
“The one thing about the gas tax holiday is that it may not necessarily go to our residents,” said Acting Westchester Village President Nick Steker, who suggested that the village might be able to provide more direct relief to residents in other ways, such as decreasing local fees associated with home improvement projects.
Kuratko said she’s open to other ways of providing relief “that might be more impactful for residents” who are not only experiencing high gas prices, but also the effects of historic levels of inflation.
The discussion comes more than a week after Chicago businessman Willie Wilson gave away $1 million worth of gas to area residents at some four dozen gas stations in Chicago and the suburbs, including the BP at 11201 W. Cermak Rd. in Westchester. Gas prices are averaging about $4.70 a gallon in Cook County.
A line of motorists apparently a mile long queued up for the free gas on March 24, with some motorists lining up as early as 3 a.m. About 400 motorists got $50 worth of gas at each location that day.
The village board is scheduled to discuss more options for providing relief for residents at its next meeting on April 12.