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Home rule on the ballot in Homewood, with limitations in place

The village board passed a resolution Tuesday to add a home rule referendum to the March 20 ballot while simultaneously passing ordinances aimed at limiting its power, should voters approve it.

Home rule allows a municipality the power to “regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt,” per the Illinois Constitution. Proponents say it directs more power to local government. Critics say it leads to more debt and higher taxes.

Towns with fewer than 25,000 residents need to approve home rule in an election.

Village Manager Jim Marino gave a detailed presentation about home rule at the board’s Oct. 10 meeting. The village has distributed informational packets at village hall and during board meetings since the fall.

Homewood also held an informational meeting in November, gathering feedback from residents. That feedback led to three limiting ordinances passed Tuesday.

The first requires the village to abide by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, which caps property tax increases at 5 percent or the increase in the national consumer price index for the previous year. Non-home rule communities, as Homewood currently is, already abide by this law.

The new ordinance allows the board to break this only in the case of a legal requirement, an emergency or if a referendum is passed by voters.

The second limiting ordinance requires the village to give ample notice to residents before it votes on any tax increase.

First, a hearing must be held where residents can voice their concerns. A notice for that hearing must be published in a newspaper circulated within the village at least seven days prior.

And any tax increase would require a two-thirds majority vote as opposed to a simple majority.

The last limiting ordinance addresses the possibility of increasing debt.

Homewood will only be allowed to incur as much debt as a non-home rule municipality — 8.625 percent of equalized assessed value.

The board also approved an intergovernmental agreement with school districts 153, 161, 233, the Homewood Flossmoor Park District and the Homewood Public Library for the distribution of revenue resulting from a 0.25 percent sales tax that would be imposed, should the home rule referendum pass. District 153 would receive 70 percent of that revenue and each of the other bodies would get 7.5 percent.

Marino said in October that the other taxing bodies are limited in their ability to increase revenue and the sales tax would help them financially.

More information on home rule is available at the village website and at Homewood village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road.

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