The Bugle | Westmont votes to end Home Rule status
Becoming a non-Home Rule community, officials said, the village will have financial repercussions, including a loss of more than $2 million in tax revenues, which went directly into the general operating fund through hotel/motel, sales and gasoline taxes generated.
Under the 1970 Illinois Constitution, hotel/motel tax revenue in a Home Rule community may be applied to the village revenues, while the hotel/motel tax generated in a non-home community can be used only to promote overnight tourism. In 2012, the hotel/motel tax will generate approximately $600,000.
Another fiscal repercussion will be the village’s loss of any taxes generated by non-residents, which was more than $2 million per year.
“An example would be the gas and sales tax which brought in revenue from outside the community so we didn’t have to rely on property taxes as a major source of revenue,” Westmont Village Manager Ron Searl said.
Public safety services benefited from the monies generated through Home Rule status.
“Currently, the Police Department has an $8 million budget, therefore since we lost Home Rule status, approximately 26 percent of that budget will have to be cut,” Searls said. “The Fire Department will lose almost 50 percent of their budget. Public Works will have a similar problem.”
As non-Home Rule community, Westmont will now be required to provide the necessary monies for any unfunded state mandates, which are Illinois statutes that require local municipalities to deliver a service without providing the funding.
In addition, Westmont no longer will be able to borrow at lower interest rates; impose impact fees in order to offset increased service demands or have the flexibility to develop local solutions for local issues.
Organization against Home Rule
The non-profit organization, Taxpayers United of America (TUA), was successful in recommending residents to vote for discontinuing the Home Rule status in Westmont along with four other Illinois communities.
TUA was opposed to Home Rule because, according to the TUA website, municipal leadership needs to respect their constituents’ intelligence and make the cuts necessary to relieve taxpayers from the burdensome growth of government employee salaries and pensions.
“Taxpayers are the big winners in Westmont, where they successfully ended Home Rule taxing authority,” said Jim Tobin, President of TUA. “Home Rule communities always have higher taxes, and that is the message that resonated with voters yesterday. People aren’t being fooled any longer; they know that 80 percent of Home Rule taxes go to pay salaries and benefits.”
Appeal under way
The village has a pending appeal to the U.S. Census Bureau. The appeal challenges the 2010 Census population count. A vote for Home Rule status is necessary only in communities with a population under 25,000. In 2007, the population was 26,211 while the 2010 census reduced it to 24,685.
“The Census count appeal process ends June 2013,” Searl said. “We found what we believe are errors made in the count of specific living quarters and persons. We have submitted this data to the Census Bureau for their review and consideration.”
The legal opinion states that if the appeal were to be successful the village would automatically become Home Rule under Illinois law, according to Searls.
The unofficial November 6 vote results indicate that 839 voters did not answer the Home Rule question.
If the appeal passes next summer, it is unclear when the Home Rule status will be reinstated.