Question: Can voters within the Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library District (the “District”) initiate a future referendum to lower the District’s general library tax rate of .60% pursuant to Section 18-120 of the Property Tax Code, as amended (the “Code”), to “undo” the Limiting Rate Referendum that was passed in November of 2016 (the “Election”)?
Answer: No. Since the District is tax capped, Section 18-190 of the Code provides authority for the District to extend property taxes for each fund up to the maximum applicable tax rate per fund, notwithstanding any referendum-approved tax rate for such fund; provided, however, the aggregate of all such rates may not exceed the limiting rate. Referendum-approved rate caps are not a limitation under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, as amended (“PTELL”). The limitation on the District is the limiting rate approved at the Election, subject to the maximum applicable statutory tax rate per fund (which for the District’s general library tax is .60%).
Specifically, Section 18-190 of the Code reads:
“Notwithstanding the provisions, requirements, or limitations of any other law, any tax levied for the 2005 levy year and all subsequent levy years by any taxing district subject to [PTELL] may be extended at a rate exceeding the rate established for that tax by referendum or statute, provided that the rate does not exceed the statutory ceiling above which the tax is not authorized to be further increased either by referendum or in any other manner.”
In addition, Section 18-120 of the Code only applies “to rates which are specifically made subject to increase or decrease according to the referendum provisions of the General Revenue Law of Illinois [now the Code].” Rates in the Public Library District Act of 1991, as amended (the “Library Act”), are not subject to the provisions of the General Revenue Law. The general library tax can only be increased up to .60% by referendum — Section 35-10 of the Library Act provides that “[t]he annual public library tax may be increased to not more than 0.60% if the voters of the district determine and approve the increase by a majority vote of those voting upon the question at any regular election.” There is no provision under the Library Act to decrease such rate pursuant to the General Revenue Law. Compare this, for example, to Section 5-1 of the Park District Code, as amended, that authorizes a park district’s general fund rate to be “decreased under the referendum provisions of the General Revenue Law of the State of Illinois.”