City collects $4M utility taxes, now proposes fees to pay water bill

The Rockford Register Star reported Tuesday that City officials are proposing a fee for the “convenience” of paying our monthly garbage and water bills. The proposal calls for a $3 fee per transaction for one-time payments over the phone and a $2 fee for one-time payments online. On top of those fees, there would be a $2 monthly convenience fee for those who still get paper bills mailed to their home or $5 per paper bill. These fees are in addition to the almost $4 million dollars the city will collect by adding a 5 percent charge to...

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Home rule disenfranchises Rockford taxpayers

Government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. Home rule is government “despite” the people. If home rule is approved, putting aside for the moment both sides marketing campaigns, Rockford taxpayers will effectively be giving up their vote for or against any future referendums on tax issues, debt or sunset clauses that provide the checks and balance to hold city officials financially accountable. Illinois’ Home Rule is a one-size-fits-all statute, unlike surrounding states, which allow local officials and the community to create a...

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Home rule, no financial panacea for struggling Illinois municipalities

A four part survey by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies found that several significant changes occurred in home rule municipalities between 1986 and 2002. First and foremost, there was a very significant increase in the use of home rule taxing powers. Additional retail sales taxes were increased in 61% of the home rule cities, and property tax statutory limits were exceeded by two in five home rule municipalities. The study concluded that, “Clearly, taxation has become a major use of municipal home rule powers...

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Municipal alliances not always advantageous for taxpayers

According to a recent article  in the Rockford Register Star, Rockford is joining with fellow industrial cities, Peoria, Aurora and Danville to form an alliance to lobby state legislators for solutions to common urban problems in the areas of education, poverty, and crime. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis believes there is power in numbers and more could be accomplished with a group of municipalities lobbying Springfield legislators. The coalition could eventually include 10 to 12 cities representing over a million people. However, these cities are...

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Legal and financial consequences of home rule in Rockford

Home rule, created by the Illinois Constitution in 1970, allows municipalities to raise taxes, pass ordinances to address local problems, and do just about anything not prohibited by state law. Non-home-rule communities can do only what the state law stipulates. Proponents of home rule always opine that the issue appears to boil down to a lack of trust in our elected officials not to excessively raise taxes without voter approval. In 1983, after two consecutive years of excessive tax increases, home rule opponents obtained 10,800 signatures...

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