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Local Column

Olson: No more taxes without property tax relief

Daily Chronicle Editor Eric Olson
Daily Chronicle Editor Eric Olson

It’s unconscionable for state government to ask anyone in Illinois to pay more in taxes until lawmakers and the governor address the ever-growing burden on property owners.

If you own property in Illinois, you’re being soaked.

Like most homeowners in Illinois, we received our annual property tax bill in the mailbox this month, and good grief.

This year, the Cortland Township assessor decided my home had increased in value by $13,000. It seems hard to believe that our house is appreciating so rapidly with such a high tax burden attached to it – but my opinion isn’t the one that matters.

The increase in assessed value led to a corresponding increase of more than $270 a year in annual property tax. My family now will pay about $8,200 in annual property tax for the privilege of living in Sycamore. That’s almost $700 a month.

We truly do like living in Sycamore – it’s a great town with great people – but they sure do make you pay dearly for the privilege.

Since 2014 – as far back as DeKalb County’s online property tax records go – our taxes have increased each and every year without fail.

The 2014 taxes we paid in 2015 were $7,088. The taxes we will pay this year for 2018 are $8,197.

That’s an increase of more than 15 percent in four years. It’s another $92 a month that we won’t spend in DeKalb or Sycamore, money that won’t be used to tip a server, buy ice cream for my children, or donate to the Kishwaukee Family YMCA. When people complain about property taxes in our state, they’re not just blowing smoke. The math is daunting.

The money is going to local government, schools in particular. The state doesn’t provide adequate support for local education.

Meanwhile, collective bargaining, union pay scales and teacher walkouts, combined with the multiplicity of school districts, each with its own administrative staff, have made education expensive in many of our communities.

It’s the homeowners who pay the freight, more and more every year.

Illinois is a great state, and it needs a strong public school system to continue to be one.

But its people are being asked to shoulder a heavier burden each year to remain in their homes, places they’ve worked to afford and maintain.

Every year, more of them are choosing to leave, and there are fewer newcomers arriving to take their place.

Property taxes aren’t the only reason, but they’re definitely one of them.

Every year we fail to address this issue, to get a handle on our state’s finances and face the real underlying problem of our more than
$130 billion in unfunded pension liability, Illinois is failing its residents.

Leaders of local governments should pledge to freeze or reduce their property tax levies. If they won’t do it on their own, let Springfield mandate it.

Let’s accept no changes to taxes, and no more increases, until the tax burden facing our state’s homeowners is addressed in a meaningful way.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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