Home Rule and the Real Estate Transfer Tax

**Updated July 31 at end of post.**

Believe it or not, there’s at least one limit to Illinois Home Rule! Here’s a post from the blog of the Illinois Association of Realtors:

I was discussing a transaction in the home rule community of West Frankfort. “My client was surprised to learn at closing she had to pay a fee of 1 percent of the sale price to the city—which meant $1,200 out of her pocket,” the REALTOR® said.

Surprised by the transfer tax, I began researching the history of the real estate transfer tax. The Village of West Frankfort passed a referendum in 2006 making it a home rule community. In 2008, citing their home rule status, the council passed an ordinance creating a transfer fee on the transfer of leases surrounding the city-owned lake. Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) Legal Counsel found that under state law before they implement a transfer tax, the question must be put on the ballot for referendum for voters to decide.

The IAR reportedly wrote a letter to the City of West Frankfort explaining this and now awaits a reply.

I’m pretty sure that if the tax were legal without a referendum, the City of DeKalb would be collecting it already. Continue reading Home Rule and the Real Estate Transfer Tax

Mt. Vernon Group Presents Petition to Revoke Home Rule

Illinois communities automatically receive Home Rule powers when their populations reach 25,000. Mt. Vernon is not one of them because it’s too small (about Sycamore-sized). The city’s residents had to vote for Home Rule, and they reportedly did it in order to finance a sewer project in the 80s.

So what’s the problem? According to one of the current petitioners, Steven Casper, Sr., Mt. Vernon approved Home Rule without understanding the residents would lose their power to vote on tax increases.

Casper and three other Mt. Vernon residents organized a petition, which collected 1,031 signatures from registered voters, to revoke the home rule.

“I don’t know why somebody did not do this before now,” he said. “[We] just don’t like the idea the city has the ultimate power to raise taxes for whatever they want, whenever they want.”

The group only needed about 365 signatures, Casper says.

Supposedly the city council will vet the petition before it can go on the November ballot. This does not sound right to me. The council had its chance to put the question on the ballot themselves. Since they did not — this is the reason folks had to collect signatures — my understanding is that the city clerk should certify the petition for placement of the question on the ballot unless the petition is challenged by one or more individuals. And challenges are adjudicated by election panels, not city councils.

I hope the Mt. Vernon group has competent legal counsel.

Be the First Illinoisan to Fly a Pet Drone!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to bring you lists of authorized drone pilots/sites and map their locations.

You do not have to be President of the United States to own and fly drones. We are lucky to live in such an egalitarian country!

[looking at map] Geez, get with the program, Illinois.

Bonus: Do-it-yourself drones

About Skipping Pension Payments…

Turns out, you can’t just blame state legislators for skipping pension payments:

* I asked the Senate Republicans for the list of proponents and opponents of the bill which allowed the state to skip pension payments. Here it is…

SB 27 Proponnents [sic]:

Rich Frankenfeld, IEA “testimony if necessary”
Derek Blaida, CPS
Steve Preckwinkle, IFT “testimony if necessary”
Laura Arterburn, IFT
Michael McGann SEIU
Kurt Anderson SEIU

Randy Witter, Retired State Employees Association
Martin Noven, Treasurer’s office (Topinka)

Can we quit the finger-pointing and get on with problem solving now?

Dixon Redux from Yet Another DeKalb Point of View

The appearance of “Dixon Embezzlement Serves as ‘Case Study’ on Oversight Practices” over the weekend gives me another shot at commenting on this story (now that I am out of the hospital, hopefully for a good long time). Thanks, Rockford Register Star!

First, let’s take care of the error in the story. Continue reading Dixon Redux from Yet Another DeKalb Point of View

The Case for a Graduated Income Tax in Illinois

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability just released a report called “The Case for Creating a Graduated Income Tax in Illinois” (PDF).

Changing from a flat tax to a graduated state income tax structure would take an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Now would be a good time to ask state representatives/candidates if they would support such an amendment.

New Bill Would Require Local Governments in Illinois to Place More Documents Online

Illinois Sen. Dan Duffy has filed this month SB3392, a bill that would require local governments with websites to post much more than many currently do.

New requirements under the proposed legislation include putting online information regarding employee compensation, bids and contracts, which are documents typically sought under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Systematic uploading of documents eliminates the need for citizens and organizations to submit FOIA requests to obtain them.

The proposed legislation would essentially codify the 10-Point Transparency Checklist for government websites developed by the Illinois Policy Institute and lauded by the Sunlight Foundation.

The new rules would apply only to local governments with websites and full-time staff to maintain them.

Supporters of the new bill are looking for additional co-sponsors. Please consider asking your state representatives to sign on to SB3392.

Village of Alorton, a Federal Investigation…and TIF

Alorton is an Illinois village near East St. Louis of about 3,000 people, a median household income that is roughly the same as DeKalb’s per capita income and a median home value of $47,000. Its government is being investigated by the feds for “systemic corruption.”

Some village officials have been indicted. The mayor hasn’t been charged with anything, though his home was raided last month:

McCallum said [after the raid in January] federal agents told him they were looking for documents related to tax increment financing.

Agents took boxes and several safes from the McCallum home and the Village Hall. The agents searched outside the home where a boat was parked under a carport, inside a garage where a silver Hummer was parked, and inside a white truck that was parked on the lot and all around the house.

The publication hasn’t shared what McCallum’s day job is. He resigned from office Monday over being too busy to do the mayor’s job anymore.

By the way, Mayor McCallum tendered his resignation publicly, to the Alorton Village Board. That’s more consideration than what we’ve been getting lately. Continue reading Village of Alorton, a Federal Investigation…and TIF

Who & What Sparked the Sparland Investigation

In “Sparland Officials Resign Amid Investigations, Controversy” we learned that most of the officials of the Village of Sparland resigned in December and that it had to do with investigations into possible Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act violations.

But we were missing something.

[Resident Margaret] Murry asked for records that included meeting minutes, copies of some ordinances and amendments, certain financial records and the oaths of office taken by elected officials.

State law requires a response to FOIA requests within five working days. Murry asked the AG’s Office to review the matter after two weeks had passed.

“The public body has failed to respond to my request,” she wrote.

The investigation comes at a time when the village has no one filling the legally required position of FOIA officer. [Village Clerk Susan] Persinger resigned from that appointed post the day Murry submitted her request, Mayor Linda Medearis said at a Dec. 1 Village Board meeting.

Murry, who has experience in LaSalle County government, has been appointed village clerk.

[HT Boone County Watchdog for pointing me to additional stories.]

Municipal Electrical Aggregation & You

light bulbAn organization I belong to has hundreds of members. During a recent general membership meeting, one of them stood up and pitched the idea that the group should be selling his brand of electricity to the rest of us as a fundraiser.

The board of directors asked him to confirm whether his is a multi-level marketing venture. The response: “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Thus the retail electricity market in the era of “unbundling” the costs of energy supply from those of delivery suddenly appeared to take on a somewhat pyramidal shape. The meeting incident plus my own community’s pursuit of a municipal energy aggregation program prompted me to investigate these developments more closely. Continue reading Municipal Electrical Aggregation & You