A Burr Ridge attorney leading a fight to defeat a home rule push by village officials said that recent board approval of a policy to restrict future tax increases if voters approve home rule is “unenforceable.”
“There are no restrictions [a local government places on itself] that the courts will uphold,” Ellen Raymond, who specializes in local government law, told the DuPage Policy Journal.
Raymond cited a 1988 Illinois State Supreme Court ruling, Landmarks Pres. Council v. City of Chicago, that a home rule municipality cannot be overruled even when it fails "to follow requirements imposed by that body itself."
Burr Ridge voters will decide whether to switch to a home rule government on primary day, March 17. If voters approve the change, state-imposed caps on local tax rates will be lifted.
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the board voted to require that if the village moves to a home rule government, property owners will receive written notices of any proposed tax increases above the caps now imposed by state law. In addition, the board would be required to hold a series of public hearings on why it’s considering the increase. Burr Ridge, like other non-home rule governments in Illinois, have their property taxes capped by state law at 5 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso argued at the meeting that it was virtually impossible to revoke the new tax policy.
"This is as strong a handcuff on future boards that we can legally pass," Grasso said.
But Trustee Zach Mottl said that nothing in the new policy will prevent future tax increases above the cap on non-home rule governments.
"I think this is the equivalent of paper handcuffs,” he said. “It stops no one from doing anything. We make a promise today, and some emergency pops up and we must change what we did. This is a joke. It's window dressing."
For her part, Raymond said she is forming a coalition with the Illinois Realtors and Taxpayers United of America to defeat the home rule question in March.
“It effectively means the village will have no rules [if home rule is approved],” she previously told the DuPage Policy Journal. “It’s an absolute power grab.”
In November 2018, Prospect Heights voters defeated a home rule question for the fifth time. There, city officials likewise promised to adhere to tax caps if the resolution were approved.