FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Home rule in Freeport was no longer a guarantee in October 2021.

The 2020 Census confirmed a dip in population below the 25,000 threshold. Freeport gathered Monday evening to talk about the future of the “Home Rule Act” in the city, and both side of the argument came out to voice their opinions.

“The city received its official notice that we have dropped below the population of 25,000,” said Mayor Jody Miller. “With this drop in the population, the city will lose its home rule status unless the voters of Freeport decide to keep that continuation on the November 8 ballot.”

The “Home Rule” allows local governments to manage zoning, building, safety and matters of public health instead of state lawmakers making those decisions.

“Independent local solutions to local issues and problems by local people to generate revenue and incur debt,” Miller said. “A municipality with home rule status can exercise powers and perform function unless it is explicitly prohibited from doing so by state law.”

Freeport has been a home rule community since 1971, but city leaders explained Monday night what could happen if the act would go away.

“This means non-home rule communities are dependent on the ruling given to them by the general assembly and the governor,” Miller said.

Those opposed feel that the state should not have the power to control Freeport taxes, while those in favor have felt confident in their local Freeport politicians to make the right decisions.

“Has not overused that power. In fact, the city has done the opposite by lowering our tax rate on the property tax bills,” Miller said. “If your assessed value on your property has not seen an increase, you’re actually paying less today to the city then what you did even four years ago.”

This was just another way for Freeport citizens to learn more about the act and how it affects the city, and ultimately them.

“Yeah, I think the Power Point presentation was good and the mayor following that, and you could easily track along with discussion,” said Freeport resident Alex Rios. “So very beneficial.”

The question on the ballot reads: “Shall the City of Freeport remain a home rule unit of government.” A yes will keep it as is, while a no will go back to needing state lawmaker approval for some issues.

More info can be found on the City of Freeport’s website.