Four DeKalb County-centric property tax increase proposals were on the ballot last week, and all four failed.
The proposals were for reasonable and necessary public functions – maintaining ambulance service in Kirkland, maintaining public health services across DeKalb County, life-safety improvements for Sandwich schools and a retirement fund for Genoa Township employees.
It should be clear by now, if it wasn’t before, that local homeowners simply are not willing to shoulder any additional tax burden, no matter how small it’s made out to be.
A proposed increase might be the cost of a fast-food meal every month – but who has an appetite after paying what it would cost to gorge themselves at a fancy restaurant?
There lies the shame in the ever-growing property tax burden Illinois homeowners face: Important causes get the thumbs-down because people are concerned they’ll be taxed out of their homes.
We are certain that people in the Kirkland Fire Protection District want an ambulance available to respond if they have a heart attack on a Tuesday afternoon.
We know people in DeKalb County want to be protected against communicable diseases and want restaurants to be inspected for safe food-handling practices.
Of course voters in Sandwich want schools to be safe places for children.
But with DeKalb County homeowners already paying some of the highest property taxes in the country, who can blame them for asking that these services be provided with what they already pay?
Those bills will be hitting mailboxes again around May 1, driving home this painful reality once again.
It’s true that the majority of every property owner’s tax bill goes to fund local schools, while other governments take relatively little.
That fact made no difference this election, and in all likelihood, it will not matter next time.
Unless Illinois gets its fiscal house in order and finds alternative ways to fund local education – including taking a hard look at the bargaining power of its teachers unions – almost all tax increase referendums will fail.
While we wait for lawmakers in Springfield – a wait that could last years – it will be incumbent upon local officials to find alternative means for financing projects.
Property taxes already are too high. Voters are sending the clear message that they’ve had enough.