Among the many bills filed in the Illinois General Assembly is one that should worry anyone living in a municipality of between 5,000 and 25,000 people.
That’s because HJRA 38, a bill before lawmakers in Springfield, would allow many smaller municipalities to automatically become Home Rule units.
Sounds policy-wonkish and boring, right? The fact is, this could have a huge impact on property taxes and the cost of living in these communities whether you are a renter or a property owner.
Home Rule status allows municipalities to have unchecked regulatory and taxation authority. In other words, rather than going directly to the voters for a say on whether property taxes would be increased or fees established on private property, these municipalities would be able to adopt the policies by a board vote. The results could lead to abuse of this power, and saddle taxpayers with higher costs to live in these communities.
Communities with Home Rule status have found it a convenient way to raise money and shore up budgets. What’s the result? Some communities require pre-sale inspections and have boosted escrow deposit requirements. Several communities have mandated expensive fire sprinkler systems in new residential structures, which can boost the cost of a typical home by $10,000 or more. And impact fees on development can be funneled to many non-infrastructure areas such as libraries, police cars and public art.
If you are a property owner, this just adds to the costs of buying, selling. If you rent, the costs on property owners will likely be passed on to you in the form of rent increases.
The measure was filed by state Rep. Michael Smiddy, D-Port Byron. To become part of the constitution, the amendment would have to have the full backing of three-fifths of both House and Senate members, then it would go to voters.