The Clarendon Hills Village Board unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that would implement a local property tax cap if home rule were attained by the village next month and would require a referendum for any increases that exceed that cap.
The local tax cap would use “the exact same methodology” of the current state tax cap, according to village manager Randy Recklaus: year-over-year property-tax increases would be limited by the prior year’s consumer price index (CPI) or five percent, whichever is less.
Recklaus said that Tuesday’s local tax cap ordinance is a reaction to community concerns with the Village Board’s power under home rule to raise property taxes beyond the state cap with a simple majority vote.
“Many residents have expressed reservations about the loss of the state property tax cap when home rule is attained,” Recklaus said.
Trustee Paul Pedersen said, “Anything we can do to make the residents more comfortable with [home rule], we should do.”
The measure took the place of one that would have required a supermajority board vote for any property-tax increases under home rule, which was discussed at the board’s Feb. 6 meeting. Voters in Clarendon Hills will decide whether or not the village will become a home-rule municipality with a referendum on the March 20 General Primary ballot.
Tuesday’s ordinance was first introduced publicly at the village’s third home rule informational meeting on Feb. 15 at Prospect School. At the prior two informational meetings, the village had discussed the option under home rule of implementing a capital improvements tax that would have increased the village’s portion of a resident’s property tax bill by 13 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation (EAV), a 22 percent increase.
The village is still discussing a one-percent sales tax increase as a revenue raiser that could be implemented with a majority board vote under home rule. That increase, paired with the repeal of the existing one-percent places-for-eating tax on restaurants, would provide the village an additional $100,000 per year according to staff.
While a sales tax increase could be accomplished by its own referendum without home rule, Recklaus has said that home rule could provide additional advantages to the village in economic development as well as protection against the state and some of its unfunded mandates.
“The argument for home rule is that it gives the village operational flexibility that it does not have now,” Recklaus said Tuesday.
Eric Stach, spokesperson for the anti-home-rule group Citizens for Clarendon Hills, said during public comment that the new ordinance does not resolve his group’s concerns because it can be repealed by this board or a future board at any time, it does not protect residents from future sales tax increases, and it does not limit the board’s ability to increase debt under home rule.
“The board has yet to make a coherent, non-shifting argument as to why it seeks home rule power in the first place,” Stach said after noting the village's nixing of the capital improvements tax and $10,000 demolition tax as possible home rule revenue-raisers. “Without a case for home rule, there is simply no need for this ordinance.”
Trustee Ed Reid said the village has been open about its reasoning regarding the attainment of home rule and criticized Citizens for Clarendon Hills, which has promoted its stance by passing out flyers at public meetings and sending emails to residents.
“You’ve brought the politics of cynicism and innuendo and anger,” Reid said. “This is simply a matter of how we feel it’s best to conduct the business of this town. I certainly don’t see that coming from your end. I feel I’m being vilified and attacked.”
While the village has held all three of its scheduled home rule informational meetings, an informal meeting has been scheduled by the Clarendon Hills Public Library for Saturday, March 3 at 10 a.m.