“The truth of it is we don’t have home rule and our property taxes are among the highest,” said Rockford Alderman Frank Beach before Monday nights City Council meeting.
Beach and thirteen other City Council members face one of the largest financial crises in recent history. The city is projected to be 10 million dollars in the red going into 2018. One possible solution that has been discussed, is bringing back home rule.
“Putting this on the ballet at least gives our citizens that ability to say ‘hey, you know what we do trust you guys. We do trust you to not make cuts to public safety, we do trust you to make sure that our roads and infrastructure are maintained’,” said Alderman Bill Rose.
Home rule is a process that allows cities to levy new taxes with fewer state restrictions, and without voter approval. It usually applies to cities in Illinois that have a population larger than 25,000. Rockford’s is just under 150,000.
“When you go to home rule cities their taxes are lower, when you go to a non-home rule city like Rockford, our taxes are higher,” Beach added. He and Rose both agree home rule should return. They believe the process could provide residents property tax relief and possibly open up new revenue sources.
But, Alderman Chad Tuneberg stresses that home rule isn’t the sole solution to balancing the budget. “There’s a possibility that home rule can be a piece, a tool to help write the ship,” Tuneberg said. “But along with that we definitely need economic development and we need to make Rockford a business friendly city,” he added.
Tuneberg believes before citizens take a vote, they have to see how the city plans to use home rule fiscally. Public discussions are being planned and the council will be discussing it next Monday the the 27th during a Codes and Regulation Committee meeting.