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Election

Westchester voters reject home-rule push

WESTCHESTER – With nearly all precincts reporting, Westchester voters have rejected the village's push to become a home-rule municipality.

More than 75 percent of voters, amounting to 3,649 votes, voted against the referendum measure on March 15's primary ballot, according to unofficial poll results from the Cook County Clerk's Office.

The measure received 1,195 votes in favor, or nearly 25 percent of the vote.

Westchester Village Manager Janet Matthys previously told Suburban Life the village's trustees authorized the referendum question because "they felt they wanted the flexibility, if needed, to be able to increase the taxes."

"The main priority here is keeping service levels where they're at," she said. "We've had a significant decrease in our estimated assessed values in this town, and property taxes are the main source of revenue in our general fund."

Home-rule communities in Illinois have the power to assess new taxes, increase property taxes to a greater extent and introduce regulations that non-home-rule communities, like Westchester, are barred from doing. Municipalities with populations greater than 25,000 are automatically considered home-rule communities. Westchester has a population of about 17,000, per 2013 census data.

In addition to raising property taxes, the village, as a home-rule community, also could assess taxes on other items, including cigarettes and alcohol, Matthys said. Another additional source of revenue, under home-rule status, would be the assessment of a real estate transfer tax, which could either be a flat fee or percentage of a home sale price, she said.

Leading up to the election, the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors sent mailings to residents urging them to vote no on the referendum. The agency has opposed home-rule referendums in Cook and DuPage counties for the last couple decades.

Even Westchester Village President Sam Pulia had said he was not a fan of the referendum. He said he would have rather asked residents to approve a bond issue to pay for specific expenditures, like additional staff or new ambulances.

Suburban Life freelance writer Lee V. Gaines contributed to this report.

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