Home rule might land on ballot in Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton alluded to felonious former Illinois Govs. Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan when he addressed the possibility of his village gaining more control over taxes and other matters through home rule power.
Poynton said home rule would allow Lake Zurich government the freedom to pursue "creative solutions" to village problems, rather than relying on state lawmakers. He said voters should decide on home rule in a Nov. 4 referendum question.
"Take a look at the state of Illinois," Poynton said at a recent village board meeting when officials examined the pros and cons of home rule. "Do you think that they know what's best for our state when two of our recent governors have been put in jail in the last few years?"
Village trustees plan to vote Monday, Aug. 18, on whether to place the proposed home rule referendum question on the November ballot. Lake Zurich voters overwhelmingly rejected home rule in 1998.
Towns with populations exceeding 25,000 receive home rule automatically, but it requires voter approval in smaller communities. Lake Zurich has nearly 20,000 residents.
Home rule communities 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.
In a presentation, Lake Zurich Village Manager Jason Slowinski noted home rule communities Algonquin and Berkeley have a $500 annual fee on the gambling devices. Another home rule village, Morton Grove, charges $250.
Home rule communities are allowed to do more than enact new fees and taxes. The towns may pass an ordinance on nearly any subject, provided it relates to the community, according to Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Larry Frang, who is considered an authority on home rule.
Slowinski's presentation covered possible concerns about home rule, including increased property taxes and reduced government oversight and transparency.
To allay potential concerns, Slowinski said if home rule is achieved, Lake Zurich would commit to abiding by a tax cap limiting a property tax boost to 5 percent or the rate of inflation -- the consumer price index.
But Trustee Jeffrey Halen said the village should tell residents if any new taxes are planned before they decide on home rule. Based on that lack of information, Halen said, he doesn't plan to support putting the question to voters Nov. 4.
On the other side, Trustee Jonathan Sprawka said Lake Zurich has debt problems that must be addressed, and home rule could be the way to do it.
"I'll sound like a broken record, but we now are at the point where we have to make a decision and I think that's best put into the hands of citizens, of the direction we'd like to go," Sprawka said.