Residents of the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District would be able to elect their own representatives to the agency's governing board if Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation passed by General Assembly during the recently concluded spring legislative session.
The legislation, SB2830, passed the House in a 66-49 vote May 30 and was approved overwhelmingly in the Senate by a margin of 54-1 April 25.
Currently, Fox Metro's board is appointed by state legislators whose districts extend into the agency's service area. Board members serve three year terms.
Headquartered since the 1920s along the west bank of the Fox River just south of Montgomery in Oswego Township, Fox Metro provides waste water treatment for the City of Aurora and the villages of Montgomery, Oswego and North Aurora. The unincorporated Boulder Hill subdivision is also in Fox Metro's service area.
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, served as the chief sponsor of the legislation in the House.
Kifowit explained she believes taxpayers should have the right to choose their own representatives on the board since the agency has the ability to levy property taxes.
Kifowit acknowledged that Fox Metro has not levied a property tax in several years, but noted the board still retains the right to approve one and it continues to set the rates that residents pay for the agency's waste water treatment service.
By having state lawmakers appoint board members, Kifowit said she believes the current selection process "appears grossly political." She explained that someone appointed to the board could feel an obligation to appease someone in return for the right to remain on the board.
Kifowit also expressed concern over what she believes is a lack of vetting of those who apply to lawmakers for appointment to the board.
Kifowit acknowledged that she did not know that as a state lawmaker she was to have a role in the selection of the board members until recently when she learned that a vacant seat on the board had already been filled. Kifowit said she was not consulted by other area lawmakers prior to learning that Dave Krahn, a former Oswego village board member and House Republican staff member was named to the board.
Kifowit said she is uncertain if Rauner will sign the bill.
"I don't know if he will sign it, but I would think that if the governor truly believes in no government taxation without representation he would sign the bill," she said.
Kifowit said if Rauner, a Republican, vetoes the bill it will be a sign he is "more interested in politics and patronage" than in providing area residents with the opportunity to pick their own representatives.
Area House members split along party lines in casting their votes on the bill. Joining Kifowit in voting in favor of the bill was State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, while Republicans Keith Wheeler of Oswego and Mark Batinick of Plainfield cast negative votes.
In the Senate, Republican Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove joined with Democrats Linda Holmes of Aurora and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant of Plainfield in voting for the bill. Holmes also served as chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate.