Batavia aldermen on idea to end home rule: 'It makes my blood boil'

 
 
Updated 8/9/2018 9:03 PM
hello
  • Sylvia Keppel of Batavia, left, explains to city administrative assistant Karen Morley an affidavit she submitted Monday with a petition for a referendum to remove the city's home-rule authority.

      Sylvia Keppel of Batavia, left, explains to city administrative assistant Karen Morley an affidavit she submitted Monday with a petition for a referendum to remove the city's home-rule authority. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Residents of Batavia will decide in November whether the city can keep its home-rule status. Pictured is the Batavia Government Center.

    Residents of Batavia will decide in November whether the city can keep its home-rule status. Pictured is the Batavia Government Center. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Some Batavia aldermen wasted no time jumping into the fray about whether the city should keep its home-rule authority, after residents submitted petitions this week for a referendum on rescinding it.

Aldermen were fueled by figures Peggy Colby, the city's finance director, supplied in a finance report Tuesday night.

The city could lose as much as $3.6 million in home-rule sales taxes -- about half its sales tax revenue -- according to Colby. The gasoline tax, estimated at $850,000 a year, and the liquor tax, about $380,000, would also go away.

"The public needs to know that," Alderman Alan Wolff said.

Colby's report is on the city website under the Aug. 7 committee of the whole agenda.

Sales taxes supply 32 percent of the money for the general fund. Property taxes supply 26 percent. The general fund pays most expenses for the administrative, human resources, community development, public works, engineering, building and grounds, finance, accounting, information systems, utility billing, economic development, police, fire, disaster aid, and streets and sanitation departments.

Electric, sewer and water utilities have separate funds and are funded mainly by customers' bills. Some street work, funded in part by the gas tax, is a separate fund.

"It makes my blood boil to think we would ever take this (home rule) away," Alderman Susan Stark said.

Wolff, Stark and Aldermen Marty Callahan, Mark Uher and Dan Chanzit started posting about the topic Tuesday and Wednesday on their Facebook pages and on "What's Happening in Batavia IL?"

"I have been mentally trying to figure out what we would have to cut if we lost home rule. How do you make up for a minimum of $3 million?" Stark wrote. "What are the amenities we enjoy? Funding for development grants. Gone. Flowers through downtown. Gone. Brush and leaf pickup. Gone. Funding for MainStreet? Gone. Police and fire? Reduction in staff. How do you make up 20 percent of our budget? No clue."

If it loses home rule, sales taxes the city could ask voters to approve a non-home-rule sales tax. The council could increase property taxes by an amount capped by the inflation rate without voter approval.

According to the Illinois constitution, municipalities and counties with home-rule authority "may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, including but not limited to the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt."

Non-home-rule units have only the authority granted to them by the state legislature.

Batavians for a Responsible Government filed the petitions, containing almost 1,200 signatures for the referendum.

One of the circulators was Rockford resident Brian Leggero, the leader of "No Home Rule Rockford," which campaigned successfully in April against reinstituting home rule in that city.

He collected 22 signatures and notarized 16 pages of other circulators. Ryan Schwartz of West Chicago also collected five signatures.

Realtors in Opposition to Home Rule spent at least $165,000 in the first quarter of 2018 to oppose Rockford getting home rule.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.