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Montgomery mayor: no to Home Rule referendum : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Montgomery mayor: no to Home Rule referendum
Board members discuss options for street maintenance funds

by John Etheredge


Montgomery Village President Matt Brolley told the village board last week he does not believe the village should seek passage of a referendum to give the village Home Rule status under Illinois law.

In recent weeks board members have been discussing ways in which the village can increase revenues to pay for its annual street maintenance programs.

Seeking passage of a Home Rule referendum has been among the options to increase funding presented to the village board by village staff and attorneys.

Under state law, municipalities are automatically granted Home Rule status once their population surpasses 25,000. The village's current population is just over 18,000 and local population growth has slowed dramatically since the 2008 recession.

With a population of 18,000 the only way the village could become a Home Rule community would be for voters to approve of the change in a referendum.

But Brolley told board members Feb. 24 that "going out for a home rule referendum is not something I would support."

Instead, he said he continues to favor the idea of placing a sales tax referendum on the ballot.

"The message is clear when you go out for a sales tax referendum. You are saying we need 'X' because of this (project), but with Home Rule we're saying we need money for our roads and, oh, by the way, a future board can raise your property tax, your sales tax, gas tax and any kind of fees and regulations in the future," Brolley said, adding, "This board wouldn't have any control over that once we are gone."

Referring to a Home Rule referendum, Brolley said, "As a resident I think that would be hard to swallow. It kind of muddies the water."

Board member Denny Lee agreed with Brolley.

"It would be very hard to pass a Home Rule referendum," Lee said, adding, "It would be a lot easier to pass a sales tax (referendum)."

"I absolutely agree," said board member Steve Jungermann.

More control over
rentals under Home Rule?

But Jungermann noted that if the village were to pass a Home Rule referendum, the board would be able to increase the sales tax to pay for the village's annual street maintenance program while at the same time gaining legal authority to better regulate rental properties.

Referring to Home Rule status, Jungermann said, "maybe this option would better serve us..."

Jungermann asked Steve Andersson, village attorney, if the village, as a non home rule community, would have the legal authority to implement "some kind of rental accountability program" whereby either the renters or the landlords would have to be accountable for the condition of their properties.

"I know that two or three doors down from my house they just put a sign in for a rental company. These rental companies come into the village and they are in business to make money. But, are they doing background checks. How do we know they are not renting to a sex offender? How do we know they are not renting to someone who has been convicted of a felony? If they are doing business in our community don't they have a certain responsibility or accountability to the community if they should put people in those homes that cause problems?" Jungermann asked.

Responding to Jungermann's questions, Andersson said as a non-home rule community the village does not have the authority to license rental properties as is done in neighboring Aurora, a home rule community.

Jungermann said his comments were prompted by the Feb. 10 drive-by shooting incident at a residence in the 2800 block of Frances Lane on the village's far west side. No one was hurt in the incident and village police have arrested four suspects in connection with the shooting.

Jungermann said several residents plan to attend the board's next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 10 to discuss the incident.

Board member Doug Marecek noted that of "two problem properties" he is aware of on the village's west side "neither of them are rentals, neither are landlord-tenant situations."

Jungermann agreed with Marecek but added, "I'm talking about a bigger solution. You have good renters, you have bad renters. You have good homeowners and you have bad homeowners. But eventually we are going to become a community of rental homes and I think it affects the community as a whole. Something has to be done. In my eyes this problem is just as important as our lack of capital funding (for street maintenance). What good does it do if you have good roads if you don't have good families that care about better living in the community? This is a problem that we need to deal with. And, quite honestly, if we don't deal with this problem, we don't deserve to sit in these (board) seats."

Lee recalled the board discussed ways the village could better regulate rental properties about a decade ago, prior to the start of the home building boom that ended in 2008.

Recently State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, and State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, have been working on the village's behalf on legislation in Springfield that would give non-Home Rule municipalities like the village greater regulatory control over rental properties but without the increased taxing authority, according to Lee.

"We're not here by ourselves with this. Yorkville, Plano, we all have the same problem," Lee said. "A lot of our properties now are for rent homes and they're owned by outfits out of Las Vegas and California. If you look in the paper you'll see these companies have bought a lot of homes in these local towns and they're renting them from out there."

Jungermann said he hopes that Holmes and Chapa LaVia are successful with their legislation but noted that it could take a year or more before it is approved.

"I'm very proud of the way this board has handled all the issues we've dealt with this year, Jungermann said.

He continued, "We've handled them and had some pretty serious discussions and we've done it respectfully and we've listened to each other and we haven't shied away from difficult issues. And I don't think we will shy away from this one."

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