The time is now to freeze Illinois property taxes, says one lawmaker

Jul 24, 2014

Illinois property taxes are the second highest in the nation, behind only New Jersey. And at the rate the state is moving, it’s a matter of when, not if, Illinois takes the dubious distinction of having the highest property taxes in the nation.

That’s why State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) believes the time is now for a property tax freeze in Illinois.

Writes McSweeney in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune:

In 2005, Illinois had the nation’s seventh-highest property taxes. From 2007 to 2011, it had the sixth-highest. In 2012, though, Illinois jumped to No. 2.

Enough is enough.

We need an immediate, across-the-board property tax freeze. A freeze is not a comprehensive solution to Illinois’ property tax problem, but it is a good start.

One reason I have been pushing a property tax freeze is to buy us some time to work on consolidating some of the more than 7,000 units of local government in Illinois. That would help to reduce the cost of government and ultimately lower residential property taxes. We cannot keep throwing money at all of these units of government and ignoring the outcome — higher property taxes.

High property taxes are most certainly a contributing factor in people moving out of the state. According to 2013 migration data from United Van Lines, Illinois had the second-highest number of people moving out of state. The state with the most people leaving: New Jersey.

While McSweeney pushes for a property tax freeze, Chicago homeowners would welcome one after it was revealed their property taxes would go up as a result of the newly-passed Chicago Public Schools budget.

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lauren Fitzpatrick has more:

Chicago homeowners can expect their property taxes to go up after the Board of Education on Wednesday approved a $6.8 billion budget for Chicago Public Schools that critics say uses another accounting gimmick to provide a short-term solution. 

The $5.76 billion operating budget for CPS’ 400,000 students in 2015 banks hard on pension solutions from Springfield and depends on 14 months of property tax revenue to pay for 12 months of spending. 

The Board of Education’s 6-0 vote also raises property taxes to the spending cap for the 16th time in the last 21 years, according to district spokesman Joel Hood, generating about $33.5 million or $34 more on a home worth $250,000. The seventh and newest board member, Deborah Quazzo, was absent from the meeting.

Below is a video from the Sun-Times with quotes from members of the Chicago Board of Education.

Members of the board acknowledge the budget could create problems in the future, but they still passed it with a 6-0 vote.

Chicago Tribune reporter Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah has more on reservations from officials despite the vote:

While officials acknowledged the potential pitfalls of using a one-time accounting maneuver to cover a gaping deficit, Chicago’s Board of Education Wednesday unanimously approved a $5.8 billion operating budget and another $1 billion in spending on capital projects and debt payments.

The budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year has been roundly criticized for making cuts to neighborhood schools and increased spending for privately run charters, as well as for the tactic of adding two months to the fiscal year to to help cover an $862 million shortfall.

Calling the budget a “stop-gap budget,” board member Henry Bienen said the accounting maneuver could hurt the district’s bond rating and lead to higher interest rates for future CPS-issued bonds.

“It’s a budget which could very possibly lead to a downgrading of bonds in the future, which would mean higher cost of financing on the interest rate,” Bienen said. “That’s very worrisome.”

Next article: Find out which hospitals are the best in Illinois


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