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Local News

Home rule proves difficult to gain for municipalities

SHOREWOOD – Gaining home rule status through a referendum is tough in Illinois.

Residents of several municipalities throughout Illinois have recently rejected attempts to establish home rule. Most recently, Barrington and Lake Zurich home rule bids failed in the Nov. 4 elections.

The last municipality to win home rule status through a referendum was Northfield in 2010. The city of New Lenox convinced voters to support home rule in 2008.

So Shorewood’s bid to become home rule in the April 7 election is anything but guaranteed.

If voters approve it, home rule would grant Shorewood the ability to exercise any power or function for its government including, but not limited to, “the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt,” according to Section 6 of Article VII in the Illinois Constitution.

That includes sales tax, gas tax, hotel or motel tax, property tax and a real estate transfer tax.

“The bottom line is, if you’re home rule, you’ve got a much broader taxing authority and regulatory authority,” said Joe McCoy, legislative director for the Illinois Municipal League. “If you have a home rule community, you can exercise any power, unless state statute says you can’t.”

“It’s essentially a blank check,” said Tom Joseph, government affairs director for the Illinois Association of Realtors. “Some municipalities can be very aggressive on property or people.”

One reason it’s hard to pass a referendum is because real estate organizations generally oppose it. However, the Illinois Realtors Association has stayed neutral on Shorewood’s attempt.

Mayor Rick Chapman said Shorewood seeks home rule to increase the sales tax so the village can pay for an alternate water source because the groundwater supply in Shorewood isn’t sustainable in the long term.

“Home rule status puts a trust in the local government to be honest and transparent with its residents,” Chapman said. “Shorewood has always proven to be that way.”

The village passed a resolution reaffirming the position that it won’t use its powers on a real estate transfer or raised property tax.

Shorewood makes 2 cents off every dollar in sales tax revenue, with 1 cent coming from a 1 percent village share and the other from a capped 1 percent non-home rule sales tax.

Home rule would allow the village to replace the non-home rule tax with a 1.75 percent home rule tax, netting the village an additional $1.5 million per year. The total sales tax in Shorewood would rise from 8 percent to 8.75 percent.

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