Westmont home rule referendum may come down to voter trust, expert says
By Dave Heitz, firstname.lastname@example.org Westmont Progress Posted Jul 18, 2012 @ 06:08 AM
Westmont, IL — Residents will have the call whether or not the Village of Westmont will retain home rule status and the various taxing powers that come with it. What’s unclear is the level of impact on the village if residents decide to strip it of home rule authority in a November referendum.
On Monday, the Westmont Village Board approved a measure to place a referendum on the November ballot, two years after the 2010 U.S. Census showed the village dipped below the minimum population of 25,000 required of home rule communities.
Westmont was granted home rule status after a special census in 2007 showed the village had 26,211 residents. The 2010 census figures came in at 24,685.
Village officials remain unsure of the impact of a repeal of home rule by voters.
There isn’t a lot of precedence for it: Just four times since 1971 has an Illinois municipality repealed home rule, according to Larry Frang, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League. Those towns are Lombard, Lisle, Villa Park and Rockford.
Village Attorney John Zemenak said Illinois law is vague regarding what losing home rule would mean to ordinances already in the books, and how it would impact the current budget process.
Terry Pastika, an attorney with the Citizen’s Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, said some ordinances — those enacted through home rule authority — may have to be repealed or amended to fit state law if the referendum fails. Among those ordinances are a .5 percent sales tax hike passed in 2008, a 2.5 percent gasoline tax hike enacted in 2010 and a multi-family rental licensing ordinances that requires Westmont landlords to pay an annual licensing fee to the village.
Some residents are already speaking out on the referendum.
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