BATAVIA – A Batavia man is organizing a campaign to preserve the city of Batavia’s home-rule powers.
Jim Fahrenbach already has printed and distributed yard signs urging residents to vote “no” on the home-rule question in the Nov. 6 referendum and has scheduled an informational forum at a Batavia restaurant. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at Pal Joey’s, 2030 Main St.
Fahrenbach said both he and former Batavia City Administrator Bill McGrath will make presentations. He said the meeting also will be designed to recruit volunteers to campaign against the citizen ballot initiative designed to strip the city government of its home-rule status.
“I don’t think the message is that hard to sell, given the massive impacts,” Fahrenbach said.
The city would lose $5.2 million a year in sales, liquor, gasoline and natural gas tax revenues, Batavia Finance Director Peggy Colby said.
“There’s no upside at all,” Fahrenbach said. “It’s all pain and no gain.”
Batavia automatically gained home-rule powers in 2009, when the city population reached 25,000. Home-rule communities in Illinois possess additional taxing and bonding power, without having to resort to public referendum questions.
The petition to revoke home-rule status was filed by the Batavians for a Responsible Government organization, led by Sylvia Keppel, Yvonne Dinwiddie and Carl Dinwiddie.
The ballot question will ask: “Shall the city of Batavia cease to be a home-rule unit?” A “yes” vote would be in favor of eliminating the city’s home-rule power.
Fahrenbach is particularly concerned about the city’s crime-free housing program, which would no longer be permitted if the city loses home-rule.
The program gives the city and landlords of multifamily housing projects additional powers to monitor building tenants. City officials credit the program for a dramatic reduction in police calls to apartment complexes of six or more units since the program was put into place.
Fahrenbach said the program makes sense financially, “not to mention quality of life.”
At the informational meeting, McGrath will talk about Batavia’s history with home-rule.
“It’s about retaining local control,” McGrath said.
When city officials began to contemplate the ramifications of losing home-rule, Colby forecast revenue losses of between $3.3 and $5.2 million.
The wide range resulted from uncertainty whether the city would lose all or only half of the 1 percent sales tax it receives from local purchases.
The first 0.5 percent of that sales tax was approved by voters in 2006, prior to the city obtaining home-rule powers, but was converted into a home-rule tax in 2012 in order to save interest costs.
“At this time, we have to assume we would lose that revenue,” Colby said after consulting with the city’s attorneys, meaning the city’s total revenue loss would be $5.2 million per year.
Fahrenbach said he printed up 40 yard signs at his own expense and all of them have already been snapped up. Another 70 now are being produced, he said.