Wauconda, Lakemoor asking voters for home-rule authority

Voters in Lakemoor and Wauconda on April 4 will be asked whether their respective communities should have home-rule authority, providing for various actions such as imposing a local gas or sales tax.

The Wauconda village board last week approved putting the question on the ballot. Lakemoor did so in mid-December. Officials in both communities say home-rule authority would provide flexibility to raise revenue without relying on property taxes.

Communities automatically receive home-rule status when their population reaches 25,000. However, for smaller towns, the designation can be achieved only through voter approval.

According to the 2020 census, Wauconda's population was 14,084 and Lakemoor's was 6,182.

Under home rule, officials can raise taxes or create new ones. It also allows communities to use currently restricted funds, such as motel and hotel taxes, for purposes other than promotional activities.

If voters approve, Wauconda officials say a 1% sales tax would be the first consideration. The tax would generate $1.2 million to $1.7 million annually and be directed mainly to roads.

Proceeds from a bond issue years ago for road repairs have been spent, and the village has been using accrued capital funds and general revenues for the program.

During long-term planning last year, the village identified a funding gap beginning in 2026 and is scrambling to address 54 miles of roads it owns and maintains, according to Village Administrator Allison Matson.

"We need to spend about $2 million each year on our paving program," she said. "We know our current revenues don't provide enough money to do that."

She said nonresidents would share the cost, noting that more than 80% of the customers of the Jewel-Osco-anchored Liberty Square shopping center - the village's busiest - at routes 12 and 176 are from out of town.

Wauconda's sales tax would have the same parameters as in Barrington, where voters in November approved home-rule designation. Groceries, prescription drugs, vehicles and other titled goods would be excluded.

In Lakemoor, officials are looking for a new revenue source to cover police pension payments, which became mandated by the state several years ago when the population reached 5,000, said Village Administrator Todd Weihofen.

"Our goal is to try to avoid raising the property tax," he said, adding that a 1% gas tax is an option if voters approve but nothing has been determined.

Home-rule status also would allow the village to enter into development agreements, giving it more leverage when dealing with large-scale developers, according to Weihofen.

Both communities plan to enact ordinances to keep the property tax levy within the nonhome-rule tax cap as an assurance to residents.

They also are developing public education campaigns. Wauconda has scheduled in-person information sessions March 2 and 11 and a Zoom meeting March 23. No specific plans have been announced in Lakemoor.

  Voters in Lakemoor will be asked on April 4 whether the village should have home-rule authority. Officials are considering options to raise revenue to cover police pension obligations if the measure is approved. Mick Zawislak/
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