Glencoe, News

Glencoe trustees support asking voters to give village home-rule status

Decades-old discussion re-emerges; Referendum may be on November or April ’25 ballot

Nearly 40 years after town officials first attempted to do so, Glencoe trustees are ready to take another swing at altering the village’s governance structure. 

The Village Board came to a clear consensus during its Tuesday, March 19 committee of the whole session that it will again attempt to gain home-rule status, a more freeing designation. 

Trustees all signaled their support Tuesday for moving forward with a referendum that will ask Glencoe residents to consider the change. While the board did not finalize a date, officials discussed having the referendum potentially appear on voters’ ballots as early as the November 2024 general election. 

Village attorney Steve Elrod on Tuesday walked the board through a presentation defining home rule governance and detailing Glencoe’s history with the matter. 


Glencoe is a non-home-rule community, meaning the village is subject to all state legislation and mandates, Elrod explained. Home-rule communities, as detailed in village documents, have additional authority over their operating procedures. 

The Illinois Constitution states that home-rule entities have the power to “perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals, and welfare and the power to license, to tax and to incur debt,” Elrod told the board. Additionally, communities with home-rule status may opt out of certain state legislation or mandates.   

Nikki Larson, Glencoe’s deputy village manager/chief financial officer, also presented to the board during the meeting, highlighting how the village’s non-home rule status limits its governance. 

The key limitations Larson detailed include timelines for financing capital, the administration of certain zoning restrictions, restraints on revenues that may shift tax burden, restrictions on multi-year purchasing contracts and the inability to legislate local issues.    

Glencoe has also faced limitations with economic development authority, particularly the sale of property and financing programs, as well as restrictions with its financial authority, notably related to both property tax and non-property tax revenues and debt restrictions, Larson noted. 

These factors, Larson said in a village memo, ”either together or singularly, have generally led Glencoe to a much stronger reliance on property tax revenue than the village’s home-rule counterparts.” 

To illustrate this point, Larson also presented data to trustees that showcased a nine-year history of property taxes in Glencoe compared to its surrounding communities. 

Glencoe ranked near the top in terms of the portion of the property tax bill that is paid to the municipality, outpacing towns like Winnetka, Evanston, Highland Park, Wilmette, Park Ridge, Northfield, Deerfield, Northbrook and more. 

“The practice of being so reliant on the property tax levy is that, by comparison, that actually puts Glencoe at the higher end of the property tax bill rather than the lower end because what’s missing from the equation is our ability to implement revenues that shift that property tax burden,” Larson said in opposition of the common argument that home-rule status leads to higher property taxes.  

Larson also stated in her memo, and reiterated during her presentation, that Glencoe’s non-home-rule status continues to limit the ability of the village to enter into certain multi-year contracts, inhibiting its competitive purchasing power. 

Seeking change

According to Elrod, municipalities can achieve home-rule status by either obtaining a population of at least 25,000 residents or by successfully passing a local referendum. A home-rule referendum can be placed on the ballot either through a petition submitted by local voters or via an ordinance passed by the village board, Elrod said. 

Because Glencoe’s population — 8,723 as of 2020 census — falls well short of 25,000, the only feasible option for the town is through a referendum. 

Nearly all of Glencoe’s neighbors have home-rule status. The only town in The Record’s coverage area of New Trier Township that shares Glencoe’s non-home-rule status is Kenilworth. 

“It’s pretty hard to explain why we’re an outlier, particularly in light of (the data) that shows that being an outlier has not resulted in lower property taxes for our residents,” Village President Howard Roin said. 

Glencoe’s quest to become a home-rule community dates back to the late 1980s when town officials attempted to pass a referendum to change the village’s status. That referendum failed by nearly a three-to-one margin, officials said at the meeting. 

The village’s next discourse related to the matter surfaced in 2005 when a home-rule task force was formed. The 18-member resident task force recommended moving forward with a home-rule referendum on the ballot, with provisions, but the Village Board at the time opted not to move forward with the recommendation. 

Efforts reignited again in 2015 when the Village Board directed staff to begin gathering information and preparing studies of the two previous failed attempts. This attempt, however, failed to gain momentum when the board’s committee of the whole squashed the plan.

Glencoe’s most recent swing started in 2019 when village attorneys began presenting on the topic over a series of committee of the whole meetings. 

I think what we should be looking at is when is the best way to do this so that our residents have a fair shot to weigh in. … It remains an open question whether that is November or that is April.”
Howard Roin, Glencoe village president on a home-rule referendum

A key driving force behind this effort was the adoption of the village’s 2018 strategic plan. As part of that, a village staff team was formed to “research the Village’s authority through its special charter and legislative authority granted to the Village as a non-home rule municipality,” Larson says in her memo. 

Trustees’ discussion continued until August of 2020 when officials opted to table the matter to respond to more pressing issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The current efforts to pursue home-rule status come from the recommendations of village leaders, and trustees showed strong support from the jump to move forward with a referendum . 

“Every day, our residents are spending more money than the residents of other communities because we’re not home rule,” Roin said. 

The only point that garnered some debate among trustees was whether to pursue placing the referendum on voters’ ballots this upcoming November election or next year’s local election in April. 

Glencoe officials will have to determine their desire at least 79 days prior to the election date, Elrod said at the meeting. 

Roin, who showed a preference toward November, said the goal “is not to throw a fastball past our residents.”

“I think what we should be looking at is when is the best way to do this so that our residents have a fair shot to weigh in and so that both sides have a chance to make their point,” he added. “It remains an open question whether that is November or that is April.”

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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