Jonathan Swift once wrote, “Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken.” Trustees have just added sugar to the bitter pill they want River Forest taxpayers to swallow. They have done this by passing an ordinance which promises to abide by real estate tax cap limitations if they are given the power of “home rule.” Taxpayers should be aware that promises made by elected officials are not legally binding on current or future trustees, and that any ordinance can be changed or abrogated.

If given home rule, village trustees would have almost unlimited power to tax, spend and incur debt. The primary motivation in seeking home rule powers is to increase revenues. The principal source of significantly increased revenue is increased real estate taxes. Increases in other taxes won’t bring in enough revenue to make a difference in the village budget.

Even Village Administrator Eric Palm acknowledged this fact when he was quoted in the local press saying that an increase in the gasoline tax, liquor tax, a head tax and expanding the 1 percent food and beverage dine-in tax to include take-out and prepared food would not make a big dent in the village’s finances — perhaps $10,000. Mr. Palm then asked the question “Is it worth it?”

The obvious answer is “No,” particularly when the River Forest Board of Trustees is contemplating as yet unspecified urban renewal projects. The big money comes from the letting of municipal bonds which are financed by increases in real estate taxes.

In a recent Viewpoint article, a village trustee stated that “a non-home-rule community is treated by the state of Illinois like a child who can only do what its parent (the state) permits. A home-rule community is treated like an adult by the state of Illinois.” This argument in favor of home rule should be seen for what it is: empty rhetoric. Oak Park has home rule. Ask any over-taxed Oak Parker what it is like to be treated as an adult. Then ask him if he would like to change places with us kids.

Al Popowits

River Forest

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