Home Rule gives local governments more freedom to solve local problems. Illinois law grants Home Rule authority to all villages larger than 25,000 people automatically. Homewood has about 19,500 residents, so Illinois arbitrarily limits the decisions our village can make. Compared to Homewood, Home Rule communities have more local control over:
- taxing (both real estate taxes and sales taxes);
- maintaining safe and clean neighborhoods; and
- building the best police and fire departments.
Voters in smaller communities must agree through referendum to give this additional authority to their local officials (and they can reverse Home Rule the same way).
For detailed information about all of these topics, check the Village of Homewood website at homesweethomewood.com and look for the Home Rule tab.
Since the 2008 recession, renter-occupied housing in the village has grown. Nearly 7.5 percent of the housing units in Homewood are now rental properties. More rental units regularly means more neighbor complaints about property upkeep, a lack of basic maintenance and other problems (see more later).
Also, our state’s dysfunction and financial mess has deeply hindered the village’s priorities and its ability to respond to community needs. Other agencies more reliant on the state, like our schools and library, have been hit even harder.
Springfield assumes that Homewood, solely because of our size, can’t be trusted with the authority to effectively respond to these challenges. We think taking that authority away from Springfield is the best way to help Homewood respond and thrive.
We have polled many of Homewood’s former elected officials, and they tell us that the more involved they became in responsibly governing the village and keeping Homewood clean and safe, the more they wished for Home Rule.
They come from a wide range of political orientation—conservative, liberal, libertarian, etc.—and have served over several decades each with its own issues and challenges to face. And each of them came to see that responsible, responsive local government requires more freedom to act locally, not less.
Like our current Village Board, they are our neighbors; they pay the same taxes, shop in the same stores, and their kids attend the same schools. In addition, they volunteered to serve their neighbors by working on the Village Board. They have had to live with the decisions they made, just as we have, and they are for Home Rule. We think that’s a pretty good recommendation.
According to a 2011 report from Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies,* Home Rule Municipalities have:
- Better bond ratings
- Less reliance on property tax increases
- More diversity in tax base
- Reduced deficits
- Greater control of government growth
Currently Illinois allows Homewood to raise property taxes up to 5 percent per year. Home Rule does eliminate that ceiling, but remember: Village Board members are residents, too. The taxes they raise are taxes they also have to pay. So in December the Village adopted an ordinance preventing the village from increasing property taxes under Home Rule above their currently allowed limit. This is Home Rule done responsibly.
This is a big concern for a lot of people. In December, the Village addressed the concern by adopting ordinances that:
- Prohibit an increase in property taxes beyond the 5 percent (which is the current limit of increase)
- Prohibit debt to rise beyond what is currently allowed as a non-home rule municipality
- Require the Village Board to notify voters and conduct a public hearing to explain why a tax or increase is needed.
Currently, Homewood charges 9 percent sales tax when you buy things in Homewood. That is the lowest rate in the south suburbs.
If Home Rule passes, the board plans to raise that rate one quarter percent to 9.25% - still one of the lowest rates in the south suburbs.
If you currently spend $1000 shopping and dining in Homewood every month—good for you shopping locally, by the way!—you’ll pay $2.50 more in new sales tax, generating new revenue for Homewood’s schools, libraries, and parks, NOT to fix the broken budgets of the county or state.
Lots of people who live outside Homewood shop here and pay sales tax here; a small increase in sales tax generates a lot of revenue generated by non-residents. In fact, a market research study found that shoppers from outside Homewood generate more than 90% of the sales tax collected along Halsted, so we get the benefit of many people helping to support our village. This is a pretty good way to keep local taxes low and our quality of life high.
The village, working hand in hand with the school boards, the park district and the library, created an Intergovernmental Agreement and has decided to distribute the funds like this:
- $700,000 to school District 153 (the Homewood schools)
- $75,000 to School District 161 (25 percent of our neighboring school district’s students are Homewood residents
- $75,000 to School District 233
- $75,000 to the HF Park district; and
- $75,000 to the Homewood Library.
CLEAN, SAFE COMMUNITIES
Because Homewood has less than 25,000 residents, the state hamstrings the Village from intervening on property upkeep issues, including dangerous code violations and unsuitable living conditions, beyond what can be viewed from the street. Passing Home Rule gives Homewood more local authority to inspect rental properties and keep our neighborhoods clean and safe.
A common misconception is that Home Rule inspection authority would apply to private home owners. It would not! It only applies to rental properties, so home owners would not be visited or cited for anything related to the interior of their homes for any reason.
Rental units are a particular problem. First, their number has been rising as the nation’s housing problem has taken a long time to resolve. As of 2017 data, Homewood has nearly 450 rental units. That’s just over 7 percent of the 6,000 residences in Homewood.
Homewood received complaints on just five percent of owner-occupied homes. That number jumps to nearly 25 percent of rental properties.
Home Rule would give the village the tools to have those properties cleaned up more quickly. In addition, Home Rule will give the village the authority to inspect rental properties intermittently inside when they are starting new leases or having new tenants.
With Home Rule the village will also have new tools to encourage landlords to maintain their properties cleanly and safely, including a program to help landlords understand the best ways to maintain their properties and the best ways to design their public areas to keep crime to a minimum. Landlords will also have access to tools to better understand how to screen and select tenants.
We also know that when residences have adequate heat and water, the children who live there are better able to learn when they wake up and go to our schools.
That’s correct. They fear that villages will overdo this power to inspect properties, or that it will be extended to non-rental properties. The village has no plans or desire to do that. They are responding to repeated complaints from residents that they don’t want to live across the street from an eyesore.
Frankly, the members of the committee are befuddled why real estate agents don’t want the same thing we want: safe, clean neighborhoods. It seems it would make it easier to sell properties here if Homewood had a reputation as a great place to live. We know it has that reputation now, and we want to keep it that way.
As a note, the Village already has the authority to inspect single-family houses when they are sold. The village does not do that and has no plans to start.
Without home rule, the Village has no authority to inspect inside single-family rental homes and often learns of code violations and safety concerns only when the police, fire or public works department respond to an emergency.
But now other villages that have Home Rule authority are picking our proverbial pockets. We cannot hire experienced officers directly from other departments, but they can hire them directly from us.
It also costs us more to train these new recruits. In the Fire Department, recruits must complete a six-month firefighter academy, then two years of paramedic training. This costs taxpayers up to $140,000 in salary, overtime and training costs. In the Police Department, new officers must complete 14 weeks of police academy training and 15 weeks of Homewood Police Department field training, totaling $40,000 for salary and training before a newly hired officer can work independently.
More important than the money, the police department has been working short-staffed which means basic are covered, but overtime is increased and we forego some enhanced programs.
In our view, the money is important but secondary. We have come to expect the best services possible, so we want to retain the police officers, firefighters and paramedics that we recruited, hired, trained and oriented. And we want to keep them for long careers, here in Homewood.
Since 2013, Homewood has had to hire 13 new officers because of retirements, duty disabilities and officers leaving for other positions, including six new officers last year alone. For a more detailed explanation, visit the village website.
Sure. There are question and answer events with village staffers planned for the following dates:
At the time of this writing all of the times and places were not yet finalized so check back for updates.
There are several academic studies about the experiences of smaller towns granting Home Rule. Visit the village web site for more information. The village web site also has several pages explaining the legal cases which have limited Home Rule powers in other cities and villages, mostly in Chicago.
See the UPCOMING EVENTS section of the village and this website to attend a meeting to hear more about this, and to ask your specific question about this.
- Schedule a “coffee.” Invite a couple of neighbors over, make some coffee and we will arrange to have:
- someone from the village and/or school district to provide information only
- a member of the committee, to provide a more focused perspective
- a few guests to help explain Home Rule and what it means to you and your neighbors.
This gives you an opportunity to look closer into the reasons why the people proposing Home Rule did so and make your own decision about whether you trust them to use the power it grants effectively.
“Crime-free housing” is a landlord certification program developed by the International Association of Crime-Free Housing. The program is administered by the local police department. It includes:
- crime prevention
- resident screening criteria
- security management monitoring
- security assessment of doors, windows, locks and exterior lighting
Communities that instituted this program have experienced reduced police calls for service, and many other benefits to residents and neighbors, including increased property values in some cases. We have tried this program in the past, but it failed because landlords would not participate. Home Rule would make it mandatory for landlords to participate
Village President Rich Hofeld welcomes all, every Saturday morning at Village Hall to discuss any topic from stop signs to what new stores are planned on Ridge and on Halsted.
Mayor Rich Hofeld, email@example.com
Village Manager Jim Marino, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Burnson, email@example.com
Anne Colton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Dawkins, email@example.com
Jay Heiferman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Purcell, email@example.com
Karen Washington, firstname.lastname@example.org