LAKEWOOD – Trustee Paul Serwatka will now accept his salary as an elected official – to kick into a new political fund to fight for tax relief.
Resurrecting a promise he made earlier this year when he ran for the Illinois House, Serwatka announced that he will contribute his trustee salary to the newly formed Lakewood Tax-Fighter and Better Government Project.
The fund, which was registered Aug. 31 with the Illinois State Board of Elections, seeks to reduce the village's tax burden by expanding awareness of village issues, organizing residents, and identifying and electing village board members who pledge a dedication to lower taxes, transparency and fiscally responsible policies.
Serwatka, who was elected last year on a write-in campaign and won the most votes of any candidate, previously had not accepted the salary – he would sign the monthly $98 check right back to the village.
“My two biggest priorities are more accountable government in Lakewood, and to lower the property tax burden,” Serwatka said. “Yes, [trustees] say that Lakewood is a small percentage of property tax bills, but I’m a big believer that there is a lot of fat that can be trimmed from Lakewood’s budget.”
The organization has $1,500 in seed money, according to state records. But Serwatka hopes other residents start contributing to fund mailers, signs, a web presence and other activities. He and several volunteers spearheaded a successful petition drive of more than 500 signatures to get an advisory referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters whether taxing bodies should be required to go to referendum for any tax increase.
Serwatka writes a regular email update after Village Board meetings, which he said goes out to more than 500 people.
Serwatka said that while other taxing bodies on Lakewood residents’ bills take more money than village government, the village can become an example to follow.
“I want to be the benchmark of excellence and not just, ‘We’re not the worst,’” Serwatka said. “I don’t want to measure us by how bad everybody else is.”