For the past few weeks we have been talking about whether the Village of Barrington should become Home Rule. The referendum question is on the November 8 ballot, and you get to decide.
The reality is that without Home Rule status, no one in Barrington (be they residents or elected officials) has the ability to enhance safety in our community via crime-free rental housing (more than 25% of Barrington's housing is rental); to achieve cost savings and efficiencies through multi-year contracting; to determine a later retirement age for certain personnel; to implement an incentivizing fine structure to ensure correction of property maintenance violations; or to take any other actions we might need for Barrington unless the State of Illinois has authorized us to do so. With Home Rule, we would have those abilities.
What about taxing authority?
Of course, with Home Rule abilities comes greater taxing authority in the hands of locally elected Village Board members. So what about that taxing power? The Village Board has said that it will use that power to create a 1% Home Rule sales tax, which will provide additional revenue to apply to infrastructure (we are not currently able to keep up with our infrastructure maintenance despite cost-saving measures -- see more information here) as well as other beautification efforts that keep Barrington attractive and maintains the community as we all want it to be. The Board has also passed an ordinance that states we will keep our property tax levy within the current non-Home Rule tax cap even if Home Rule status is approved.
But some have asked, What about future boards? Or, what if board members get "overserved" and decide to impose a massive tax increase?
Well, no board members I have known over the years have wanted to pay more in taxes themselves, so they are always looking for ways to be fiscally prudent. In addition, Village boards have followed the will of the community in not approving revenue sources such as video gaming or cannabis sales. There is no reason to think these Board decisions would radically change under Home Rule.
And we don’t have to just speculate about what this greater taxing authority might mean -- we have evidence in our own backyard. Our neighbors, including Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington and Inverness — whose residents share our schools, places of worship, restaurants, and retail opportunities — have decades of experience as Home Rule communities. In South Barrington and Lake Barrington, the property tax levy has not been increased over the last several years. But even further, Barrington Hills has had a property tax levy decrease over each of the past eight years. South Barrington and Lake Barrington have the 1% Home Rule sales tax in place and have used that revenue, paid by all visitors to the Arboretum, Pepper Park, and other retail and restaurant establishments in their communities, to allow their budgets to keep up with infrastructure, ease the burden on property taxes, and address other needs to keep their communities safe and attractive and maintain their property values.
This is the same way in which the Village of Barrington intends to use a 1% Home Rule sales tax, paid not only by our residents, but also by the many non-residents who shop and dine here, which will help us keep up with the infrastructure we all use.
We can also look at the decades of evidence from other Home Rule vs. non-Home Rule studies of the taxation in towns across both Illinois and the nation. The Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies concluded in a report on this issue that there is “no evidence that officials in municipalities with broad grants of powers from the state, such as home rule, misuse these powers. Municipalities with more tax and borrowing powers did not levy higher taxes per capita and they enjoyed better credit ratings.”
At the end of the day, the question that Village of Barrington residents have the power to decide is: How do the very real benefits of Home Rule stack up against the disproven speculation about abusive taxation?
For more information on Home Rule, please attend an Information Session TONIGHT at Hough Street School (7:00 p.m.) or at another time convenient for you. For more information, visit barrington-il.gov/homerule.