Cary residents may vote on home rule status in March general primary election

The home rule would allow sales tax to fund road repairs, according to village officials

The new Cary Municipal Center is seen at dawn on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Cary. Village officials and police have not yet moved, as the building is not finished, but the construction fencing surrounding the new building are gone, allowing for a better view of the building.

The Village of Cary is looking to create a home rule status as a way to fund public infrastructure like road repairs.

The board of trustees will vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, which will then allow residents to vote in favor or opposition to it during the general primary election on March 19.

“It’s all about improving the quality of life in the Village of Cary,” assistant village administrator Courtney Sage said. “Focusing on those road resurfacing, sidewalks, bike space, public community spaces.”

Cary’s projected five-year funding equals to over $32 million but village officials expect to spend over $45 million on capital expenditures, according to Sage.

The village currently does not have a funding source for the capital projects fund, which goes to roadway maintenance and public infrastructure, Sage said.

“We need a funding source for our roads,” Mayor Mark Kownick said.

The village will only vote on if a home rule status should be voted on by residents, Sage said. No specific tax percentage numbers will be determined until and if the referendum is passed by voters.

The maximum sales tax the village could implement under home rule is 1%, according to Sage.

A home rule status allows local governments to have more control over zoning, building, safety, public health and morals by taxing, licensing, regulating and incurring debt, according to the Constitution of the State of Illinois.

Home rule cannot impose taxes based on income, earnings or occupation. It also cannot regulate areas that are already exclusive to state government, according to the Illinois State Constitution.

It can, however, levy additional property taxes above the regulations set by the Property Tax Extension Law which caps taxes at a 5% increase from the preceding year.

“If the Village becomes a home rule unit of local government, the mayor and board of trustees hereby commit not to utilize home rule powers to levy additional property taxes beyond non-home rule limitations, and to that end, commit to adopting a home rule property tax cap ordinance before the home rule question appears on the ballot for the general primary election on March 19, 2024,” village documents said.

In Illinois, communities can become home rule by referendum or automatically when reaching a population of 25,000. Cary has a population of almost 18,000, according to the 2020 census.

“Why can’t we manage our village just like somebody with 25,000?” Kownick said.

Many surrounding McHenry County municipalities have home rule status including Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Crystal Lake and McHenry. Woodstock and Huntley reached home rule status after conducting a special census in 2016.

There are currently 221 home rule communities in Illinois, and 133 were voted into effect, Sage said.

If the board passes the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting, the home rule will be on the March 19 general primary election ballot with the yes or no questions of “shall the Village of Cary become a home rule unit under Article VII, Section 6, of the Illinois Constitution?”