Lake Zurich voters might decide if village gets home rule
Voters might get to decide whether to grant Lake Zurich government home rule, which would provide village officials more local control over taxes and other matters.
Town with populations exceeding 25,000 receive home rule automatically, but it requires voter approval in smaller communities. Lake Zurich has nearly 20,000 residents.
At a meeting this week, Mayor Thomas Poynton said he expects the village board will vote Aug. 18 on whether to place the proposed home rule referendum on the November ballot. Lake Zurich voters overwhelmingly rejected home rule in 1998.
Home rule towns receive a greater ability to create new revenue sources, such as taxes and fees. For example, Lake Zurich officials say the lack of home rule prohibits the village from charging more than $25 -- a limit established by the state -- for an annual fee on video gambling machines.
Lake Zurich Trustee Jeffrey Halen raised concerns about voters not knowing in advance about potential new taxes and revenue projections if the home rule measure is on the ballot.
Poynton responded that it's too soon to address specific ideas for taxes or fees. He said the village is trying to improve its finances with long-term solutions, which is why home rule is on the table.
"We're not looking to raise property taxes," Poynton said. "We're looking to generate some other sources of revenue."
In addition to fees and taxes, home-rule towns may pass an ordinance on nearly any subject, provided it relates to the community, according to Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Larry Frang. He's considered one of the state's leading experts on home rule.
Over the past 20 years, a large majority of ballot measures seeking home rule for municipalities in the Daily Herald circulation area have failed. Prospect Heights voters have rejected home rule three times since 2004.
Frang told the Daily Herald that home rule protects towns from some legislative action in Springfield.
Typically, the General Assembly needs to pass legislation with a three-fifths vote, or a supermajority, for a state law to affect a home-rule town, Frang said. If that standard is not met, home-rule villages may modify or disregard the policy, and it will affect only communities without home rule.
Lake Zurich isn't alone in looking at home rule for the Nov. 4 ballot. Officials in neighboring Barrington have been discussing the issue.
Poynton said he'd want village officials to meet with homeowners association members and other community groups if home rule is up for a vote in November.
"We'll have 2½ months to do a heavy education program," he said.
•Daily Herald staff writer Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.