by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board reversed last week’s Committee of the Whole recommendation by voting to postpone placing a home rule referendum on the March 20 primary ballot.
“I’ve received calls, and I have not received one supporting this issue,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “I have mixed emotions. I think it has a lot of positive attributes to it, but I would like to really spend more time as a taxpayer in learning what this means to all of us.”
Elburn resident Gene Taylor told the board that he worries about giving more power to local government.
“We’re being taxed to death,” Taylor said. “What scares me is the tax (powers). Everybody knows that once any governmental body gets the power to tax, tax, tax, it becomes abused. It’s getting to the point where enough is enough.”
Trustee Bill Grabarek, who ended up being the only one this week voting in favor of the referendum, said home rule would allow the board greater powers regarding zoning.
“You have greater zoning powers,” Grabarek said. “And yes, a greater authority on taxes, which scares the heck out of everyone.”
Grabarek added that the ability to have “more self-government within our own municipality gives us autonomy we just don’t have right now.” He said home rule would give the board options that need not be exercised, but would be available.
Anderson said he believed that the current board takes its responsibilities seriously, and no tax increase or fee increase would be done “from a frivolous nature.”
Christopher Tenggren, from ReMax Great American North in St. Charles, said Realtors pay particular attention whenever communities bring up the issue of home rule.
“We (Realtors) pay attention to this all across the state,” Tenggren said. “Home rule is usually passed for the wrong reasons. You said it, one of the biggest concerns that voters should have now is you have a great board right now who understands this power, but once you do it, you don’t go back.”
In Illinois, municipalities with populations under 25,000 may become home rule units by referendum. Communities with a population of 25,000 or greater automatically gain that status. Tenggren said the larger communities already have the infrastructure and staffing in place to be more responsible with the added power.
Trustee Ken Anderson said the issue of police pensions needs to be resolved first, and the home rule idea could be revisited later for the November general election, allowing the board and voters to become more educated on the issue.
Voters will decide whether to allow a new property tax levy to pay for police pensions. Anderson said if this referendum doesn’t pass, the money for the pensions has to come from somewhere.
“We’ve done our best to save dollars,” he said. “Right now our concern is we’re going to be cutting into things this village needs, i.e., streets, potable water, wastewater treatment, police protection.”
He warned that the village would have to look to reducing those basic services if the pension levy referendum fails to pass, because the village is mandated to fund it.
“We definitely have to do something,” he said. “Those four items will suffer.”
Taylor reminded the board that about 135 homes in Elburn are in foreclosure, “and it’s getting worse.”
“I don’t mind paying my fair share,” Taylor said. “If you’re hurting that bad, then you’re going to have to make cuts just like I do. I don’t have, nor do taxpayers have, an unlimited pot. It’s like I tell my kids, the well ran dry.”