Written by, Ron Kingsley – Lake County Appeal Owner and Attorney
In an attempt to curb out of control Illinois property taxes, Governor Rauner, along with the Illinois legislature, recently proposed various pieces of legislation to freeze Illinois property taxes, and the Illinois Senate passed one of them, although it is unlikely to become law. A property tax freeze would assure property owners that their property taxes would not increase, even if their property’s value increase. In order to effectuate a property tax freeze, as assessed values go up, the tax rate would have to decrease.
The ultimate question is whether a freeze is good for Lake County residents.
Unfortunately, for the reasons detailed below, the answer in no.
As we all know from looking at our property tax bills, most of our property tax bill payments are used to fund K-12 education. This is partially because Illinois pays a smaller percentage of K-12 funding than any other state. Dependent upon the data one looks at, Illinois only contributes 20% – 25% of the money for educating public K-12 students. The national average for states is 45%. As a result, public schools rely on local taxing bodies to make up the difference (amounting to many millions of dollars annually), which causes great inequity between poor and rich districts and explains, in part, why our property tax bills are so high. They are also very high because, in addition to providing funding to municipalities, park districts, etc., property taxes help to fund our township governments, an additional layer of government that most states do not have. Township governments have their own offices, employees, trucks, etc., resulting in redundancies and inefficiencies.
Why a Property Tax Freeze Would Be Bad for Lake County Taxpayers
A property tax freeze would be bad for Lake County taxpayers for many reasons, including:
- It would result in a reduction in K-12 funding, as annual inflation makes operating the schools more expensive; and
- It would harm the primary source of funding for municipalities and further destabilize unfunded police and fire pension funds and endanger vital public services, such as road maintenance, police and fire protection, garbage pickup, snow removal, etc. For example, municipal construction project costs would skyrocket because bonds issued for those projects would require a significantly higher rate of return. This result would ensue because the respective municipality’s access to capital to pay interest on those bonds would be less of a certainty.
What Can Lake County Taxpayers Do to Help Control Their Property Taxes?
As I have written previously, I urge you to get more involved in local spending decisions to help control the tax rate…Attend school board, village, township and county meetings where spending decisions are made to ensure that no spending is wasteful. Your property taxes are most likely to decrease the most when budgets are reduced. You can find out about many upcoming meetings by clicking here.
Relatedly, be certain to speak out whenever you see waste! For example, I gave my daughter’s high school a piece of my mind when I saw that a small classroom had three whiteboards and chairs that reclined and swiveled 360°!
Feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments.
Attorney at Law
Masters of Laws in Taxation