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Illinois Property Tax Referendum Proposed

by Bob Tivnan, Chicago, March 2014

 

As we recently reported, Illinois property owners are paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation (See Illinois has Second-Highest Property Taxes) Even though property values have declined, taxes have not.

 

New legislation introduced in February would let voters weigh in on whether local governments should be allowed to raise levies and collect more tax money while property values drop.

 

Dramatic Differences

 

Illinois real estate values have taken a plunge during the past ten years. Meanwhile, effective property tax rates, the percentage of a property's true market value that has to be paid in property taxes, have still gone up.

 

A report by the Civic Federation finds effective property tax rates vary dramatically from city-to-city. It all depends on the size of the property tax base and how much each town and school district needs in taxes.

 

Seen over a 10-year period, the differences are striking. For example, the commercial effective tax rate increased 42.3% in Harvey and only 1.2% in Evanston between 2002-2011. (See chart.)

 

Get Voters' Opinions

 

House Bill 4273 seeks to put a non-binding advisory question on the November 4th ballot. It asks whether citizens support a state law forbidding governments from raising property taxes if overall assessed values drop from the previous year, except if approved by voter referendum.

 

Sponsor of the Bill, State Representative Jack Franks, has made several unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation prohibiting tax jurisdictions from charging higher property tax levies while values decline. He believes giving taxpayers a say would get the ball rolling to help change the law.

 

In the past, bipartisan opposition, stoked by lobbying groups representing county, municipal, township, and other units of government, have fought similar measures.

 

“Maybe (the advisory referendum) would give some courage to those lawmakers who didn’t vote for it in the General Assembly,” Franks said.

Effective Commercial Property Tax

Rate Increases (2002-2011)

 

 

Harvey

42.3%

Elk Grove Village

35.4%

Schaumburg

30.6%

Chicago Heights

29.3%

Oak Park

27.9%

Elgin

23.8%

Orland Park

22.4%

Barrington

16.0%

Chicago

14.6%

Arlington Heights

13.4%

Glenview

7.4%

Evanston

1.2%

   
Source: The Civic Federation