The referendum asks voters whether they want to revoke home rule authority in Rolling Meadows. A “yes” vote will return the city to non-home rule status. A “no” vote will keep things the same as they are now.
Q: Why is this referendum on the ballot?
Several residents were angry when the Rolling Meadows city council amended its self-imposed tax cap to issue almost $3 million in bonds to pay for improvements at the 3Com Midwestern headquarters site on Golf Road. They said residents overwhelmingly voted for the tax cap and breaking it went against the will of the residents. They want to limit the powers of city officials; they saw revoking home rule as the best way to do that.
Q: How much will it cost?
No one, including the Illinois Department of Revenue, is sure how much more money, if any, losing home rule will cost local residents. However, in a worst-case scenario, the city could lose its ability to collect about $2.7 million in home rule sales, hotel-motel, real estate transfer and food and beverage taxes. City officials have plans to replace about $2.5 million of that revenue with a 5 percent utility tax on phone, electrical and gas service (currently no utility tax is levied); an ambulance-service fee for city residents (currently there is no fee for residents) and other increases in permit costs and fees for city services.
Q: Who pays?
City officials say if they lose revenue from home rule taxes, city residents are going to make up much of the difference. Their logic is that home rule taxes on sales, hotel-motel use, real estate transfers and food and beverages are paid not only by residents, but by people from out of town, too. Utility taxes will affect only businesses and residents in Rolling Meadows. Rolling Meadows residents also could wind up paying for ambulance service, which they don’t pay for now. And increases in city fines, fees and permit charges also primarily would affect city residents.
Q: What about my property taxes?
They won’t go down – on that point, everyone agrees. The latest opinion from the Illinois Department of Revenue seems to indicate they won’t go up much, either. It’s likely that property taxes will continue to be subject to current tax caps, even without home rule. Rolling Meadows is subject to two tax caps – property tax rate limits and another tax cap for Cook County municipalities. The Cook County cap says taxes cannot increase by more than 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Even though Rolling Meadows could levy up to $1.5 million for a corporate levy without home rule, that much money far exceeds the Cook County tax cap.
Q: How will we know if we lose home rule taxes?
If home rule is revoked, the city will go to court and basically file a lawsuit claiming it still can collect home rule taxes. Since the case could go all the way through the appellate court system, it could be years before the city gets a definitive ruling.
Caption: 3com – ne1021rmegb Where it all began: The 3Com site, on Golf Road in Rolling Meadows. In December 1997, aldermen voted to amend the city’s voter-approved property tax cap to issue bonds for improvements to land on which 3Com was building its Midwest Headquarters. Although the bonds are to be paid back either by sales tax revenue from the 3Com site or out of the company’s pocket, a small group of residents saw the council’s vote to amend the tax cap without consulting voters as a threatening abuse of power. Their reaction to that threat has led to an April 13 referendum asking voters to revoke home rule in Rolling Meadows. GRAPHIC: Portion of Rolling Meadows budget affected by home rule
Source: Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, April 6, 1999 ProQuest Database