Prospect Heights rejects home rule a 3rd time

 
 
Updated 3/21/2012 1:10 AM
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Prospect Heights voters have rejected home rule for the third time, but the fact that it lost by the closest margin ever was no comfort to Mayor Nick Helmer.

With all 11 precincts reporting Tuesday, there are 1,302 "yes" votes and 1,529 "no" votes. All totals are considered unofficial until the votes are canvassed.

The question gained about 5 percent more supporters over its last showing in 2008, but Helmer said it was a disappointment, even as he was vowing to keep moving forward.

"We got the city on track and we're going to keep going," said Helmer, who has been mayor almost a year. "It's something we can live with."

Prospect Heights is fortunate volunteers and business leaders are willing to help when money is tight, he added.

The mayor and council wanted home rule authority so the city could access money for the general fund from the city's 5 percent hotel/motel tax. In communities without home rule that money can be spent only on promoting tourism.

Still, things are much better in the city, said Helmer. A one-time $510,000 settlement from the insurance company over the fire that destroyed City Hall years ago will help the city hire police officers, take other employees off furlough and open the police station to the public.

But without $250,000-$300,000 annually from the convention fund, there's no steady source of income the city can rely on, he said.

Prospect Heights has no general property tax, but does levy a citywide tax for police pensions. Another levy, to repair local streets, is forthcoming after residents voted in 2010 to tax themselves.

Opponents of home rule feared it would eventually result in a general property tax -- a fear the city council went to lengths to dispel -- but many also feared the city would use it to bring lake water to the entire city.

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