Protecting community funds—for now

By on June 10, 2011

Mayors visit capitol to keep state from cutting village funds
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—With Local Government Distributive Funds (LGDF) in jeopardy of elimination, a group of mayors and village presidents made a show of force in Springfield to urge lawmakers not to eliminate the distribution of that money to municipalities. They succeeded in that the issue was never brought up to the Senate in this session.

The money in these funds is income tax collected from residents of each municipality, a portion of which is sent back to the towns to be used to pay for crucial services like snow removal, police protection, and other daily services. According to Village President Dave Anderson, the LGDF monies make up 30 percent of Elburn’s budget.

Two weeks ago, Anderson and three other village presidents from the Metro West Council of Government, from Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties, drove to Springfield for a press conference at the Capitol. They met with 35 other mayors and village presidents in the Illinois Municipal League office before going before the cameras and reporters.

“A potential cut in LGDF would affect every municipality in the state of Illinois,” Anderson said. “There were (mayors and village presidents) from Springfield, Rock Island—from all over the state.”

The idea to eliminate LGDF was first brought up last summer, and the group wanted to let legislators and the public know what could happen if it was eliminated. Anderson wrote letters to both state Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-25) and state Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-50) to get their support.

Minutes before the press conference began, Anderson said the chairman of the group of municipal leaders that set up the press conference tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he would speak.

“She said, ‘You’re not from a home-rule community, so why don’t you get up and speak?’” Anderson said.

A home-rule community is one with a population of at least 25,000 that thereby has the authority to establish additional taxes to help make up for the loss of funds like LGDF. A community like Elburn cannot establish additional taxes without an election.

“It would be a double whammy for communities that are not home-ruled. If this goes through, we lose 30 percent of our operating funds. And we have no way of making that up,” Anderson told the press in Springfield. “We have already made our cuts.”

Both the police and fire unions stood side by side with the group of municipal leaders. Their departments would be some of the first to be cut if the funds weren’t available.

Ultimately, the issue never came to a vote because it never was brought up. But the victory for municipalities is tenuous.

“What I’m scared of is that this is ‘for now,’” Anderson said.