Prospect Heights home-rule referendum not likely in November

Prospect Heights might ask for voter approval later, however

Updated 6/14/2018 9:43 PM
  • Matthew Dolick

    Matthew Dolick

If Prospect Heights is going to try to become a home-rule municipality, it likely won't be via the November ballot.

That doesn't mean city officials aren't working to raise the issue at a later election, however.

A majority of city council members agreed this week that November is too soon to ask voters for approval to become a home-rule municipality.

"I think it's better to take the time to get everyone educated," Alderman Matthew Dolick said. "To just do it time and time again, I don't know that that's a wise thing to do."

The city has tried and failed three times to win voter approval to become home rule.

Under state law, any community with 25,000 or fewer residents is not automatically a home-rule municipality. The city's population was estimated at 16,180 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The classification would allow the city to tap into hotel tax dollars, which currently are returned to hotels and motels, and other revenue sources.It also would allow the city to impose a general property tax.

Apart from potential property tax revenues, city officials estimate that Prospect Heights misses out on an estimated $750,000 for paving streets, improving drainage, hiring more police officers and other services.

When voters rejected home rule in 2004, 2008 and 2012, it was largely because residents feared the city would use its home-rule status to create a property tax.

"You start barking the word tax, and everybody latches onto the word tax," Alderman Scott Williamson said.

Though it doesn't appear the city will try to gain approval in November, that doesn't mean the process has not begun.

Mayor Nick Helmer said he will talk to various elected officials and companies that may be able to provide insight on operating an education campaign.

He plans to report back to the city council at its June 25 meeting.

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