Batavia group wants referendum to remove city's home-rule status

Updated 7/18/2018 12:59 PM

Batavians for Responsible Government is again hoping for a referendum to remove Batavia's home-rule powers.

The group is working to collect 1,200 signatures on a petition to get the question on the Nov. 6 ballot, according to its website. The deadline to submit the petitions to the city is Aug. 6.


The group pushed for a similar referendum last year, but former city administrator Bill McGrath challenged the validity of their petitions, saying they didn't have enough signatures. The city's electoral board agreed, ruling that group submitted 381 valid signatures, well short of the 764 required.

By aiming for 1,200 signatures this year, BRG hopes to have enough that, even if some are deemed invalid, they can still move forward with the referendum.

The group's leader, Sylvia Keppel,said she has not counted how many signatures have been collected so far.

Illinois municipalities with a population above 25,000 automatically get home-rule powers. Batavia qualified when its population reached that mark in 2009.

Among the powers given to a home-rule community is the authority to impose and increase some taxes. They also are not subject to the state's property tax-cap law, which limits how much a city can increase property taxes each year without voters' approval.

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Batavia has done that several times, including increasing property taxes by $600,000, or more than 9 percent, this year. It also used its home-rule power to institute taxes on the sale of gasoline and alcoholic beverages.

Home-rule status also gives municipalities increased regulatory abilities, and more authority to borrow money, without voter approval.

BRG's website cites how the city has agreed to borrow at least $16 million for construction of a replacement public parking garage. A developer is building the garage as part of the controversial One North Washington Place apartment-and-stores development downtown. The city expects to repay the loan through property taxes generated by the development.

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