Guest Column: Home rule and what voters in Rockton should know

In the upcoming March 21 Illinois primary election, there is an issue that is of great importance to residents of Rockton.

On the election ballot, voters will be asked if the Village of Rockton shall be a home rule Unit. This referendum question is very important to current and future property owners.

There are additional powers that the Village would have if it became a home rule unit—powers that we wanted to make voters aware of before they vote.

Under Illinois law, home rule governments are:

Exempt from the Property Tax Cap Law. This means that the Village would be able to raise its real estate tax levy without limits or voter approval. This could result in even higher property taxes than the amount residents pay now.

Able to incur debt. This also could result in higher property taxes.

Able to impose or increase a variety of taxes (sales tax, alcohol tax, cigarette tax, amusement tax) without voter approval.

Furthermore, home rule authority often results in a more vigorous building code enforcement, which often includes the power of the Village to inspect every single-family home when it is placed for sale. The Association of REALTORS® has found that this type of inspection program (in other home rule municipalities) makes the sale of a home more complicated…with excessive inspection fees, delays in obtaining the inspections, and delays in acquiring a final inspection approval.

Several times in the past, officials in other municipalities have sought home rule power through an election and told voters they needed home rule power to lower property taxes. After home rule was approved, several new (or higher) taxes were enacted. Municipalities already have the ability to place a non-home rule sales tax referendum on the ballot to provide property tax relief while generating additional sales tax revenue to pay for new infrastructure, such as roads, and water and sewer projects.

The Rockford Area Association of REALTORS® is opposed to excessive taxation of real estate. We also believe that policy choices about municipal revenue and taxing authority should—to the greatest extent possible—be in the hands of the residents of the Village. If you have any questions about home rule, feel free to contact us at (815) 395-6776.

Jim Barbagallo is the president of the Rockford Area Association of Realtors (RAAR).

From the March 15-21, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!