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Yorkville voters to face referendum questions in the fall

July 7, 2016

 

Yorkville voters will see a couple of referendum questions on the November ballot.

 

The Yorkville City Council has approved putting two questions to the voters: one would eliminate the elected offices of city clerk and treasurer and make them into appointed positions and the other seeks to make Yorkville a home rule municipality.

 

Making the city clerk and treasurer jobs appointed, rather than elected, allows Yorkville to set education and experience requirements, which could not be done for elected officials, city officials said.

 

In Oswego, the village clerk is an appointed position, which requires the person holding the job to have Certified Municipal Clerk certification within five years of appointment.

 

For nearly four years, the city's finance director has assumed responsibilities for the duties that were once designated to the office of the treasurer.

 

Alderman Joel Frieders said he supports the idea of eliminating the two elected jobs in favor of appointed positions.

 

At this time, the finance director fulfills the duties of the city treasurer as the current deputy city treasurer. If the office of the treasurer was changed to an appointed position by referendum, adopting a city ordinance could subsequently eliminate the job and allow those duties to be fulfilled by city staff members.

 

The city said it could save about $10,000 by removing the elected positions.

 

If the referendum question is approved by voters in November, the existing clerk would serve out her term through 2019.

 

Also on the November ballot will be a referendum regarding whether the city should become a home rule municipality.

 

Home rule allows a city to exercise additional powers when deemed necessary, unless state statutes specifically say otherwise. Home-rule municipalities can change zoning and building codes, require licensing for businesses and impose new taxes. Unlike nonhome-rule municipalities they can also incur debt, and use tax revenues to pay for that debt.

 

Alderman Joel Frieders said he sees many benefits to redefining the city's governance.

"I'm looking forward in the big picture as to what types of tools we can use to protect the city and the people that already live here," he said.

 

Home rule municipalities are no longer subject to the state's property tax extension limitation law, informally known as the "tax cap."

 

Under state law, local governments without home rule powers can't raise property taxes more than either the rate of inflation, or 5 percent – whichever is less. A village or city generally gets home rule powers in one of two ways: either by a referendum, or when its resident population reaches 25,000.

 

In response to concerns regarding the act's ability to increase taxing powers, Alderman Carlo Colosimo said residents can rest assured the city intends to act in good faith.

 

"I would like to have the flexibility and authority provided by the home rule act regarding everything else, besides the taxation," he said.

 

Colosimo said it all comes down to informing the public about the many uses for the home rule act.

 

Todd Milliron, of Yorkville, spoke at a recent City Council meeting about home rule.

 

Milliron said he hopes voters do their research on home rule and consider the opportunity that sits before them.

 

"I think that it's time that Yorkville look at this situation, besides just a taxation question," he said. "There's many facets of home rule that have merit and would allow Yorkville to assume a greater role in looking out for folks and their lives."

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