Tax Caps provide backdoor referendum in decreasing home market

Comments on my post concerning the lower income elderly paying more in taxes even though their assessments were frozen and their property was decreasing in value prompted me to post the following clarification.

Property taxes should pay for the services the taxpayers decide they want, not what legislators’ mandate, and then don’t fund. Salaries for teachers, police, firemen, drivers, infrastructure etc. should not be paid for through backdoor referendums, such as tax caps (PTELL), which don’t require the people’s input.

The tax caps people wanted, and what the General Assembly originally intended, was supposed to limit what municipalities could collect to the amount they had collected the previous year, plus the rate of inflation or 5%, whichever was less. Taxpayers didn’t want the taxing bodies to get taxes based on unlimited property appreciation plus the rate of inflation, which was happening at the time.

With the current depreciation of property, the taxes should go down unless the people approve an increase – that’s the way taxpayers wanted tax caps to work. A few legislators have tried to limit taxes in a decreasing market, but the municipalities screamed bloody murder!

Bureaucrats believe that they know better than the people what services should be provided, even in tough economic times, regardless of what the people can afford to spend or want to spend.

So, they are now using an anomaly in the tax cap law, with decreasing property values, to receive all revenue they got before, plus inflation, by raising the tax rate forcing the elderly, who have a frozen assessments, to pay more even though their property is decreasing in value, until the value of their property sinks below the frozen base value.

Using tax caps, no elected official or bureaucrat has to stand on the merits of their expenditures, when the law simply allows them to raise taxes on decreasing home values, without even voting for the increase.

This is not an action taken by a republic; it is unelected bureaucrats and lawyers figuring out ways (mandates) to create more government jobs at the taxpayer’s expense.

Even though taxpayers do elect the officials who will represent them, these officials are usually elected for four years, there is no recall vote in Illinois and a lot of tax damage can be done in four years.

The big picture to most people is that most government officials will take whatever taxes they are allowed to take by law.  Taxpayers don’t need an additional law, PTELL, which allows elected officials to take more taxes without at least having those officials vote on it or at least present all the facts.

Real Estate ad valorem taxes may not be the correct method to pay for government services, but whatever method is used, the taxpayers should have a choice in how much is spent and it should never be left up to those who directly benefit from those taxes in wages and benefits!



  1. Curtis Newport

    Obviously the legislators who wrote PTELL never pondered what would happen if property values declined. Most certainly they never imagined the consequences of a real estate market where property lost half its value over a period of several years.

    We have lived under PTELL for most of two decades now. The result is that, on one hand, some school districts are laying off teachers, increasing class sizes and cutting programs that prepare our youth for productive lives. Our students are paying the price. On the other hand, there are taxing districts with so much money in the bank that they could operate for two years without a nickel of revenue. Beyond that, we have taxing districts that grab their PTELL extension increase every year regardless of need, then spend the money on expensive, inefficient “solutions” for whatever problems they imagine.

    This is what you get when you try to solve complex local problems with one-size-fits-all legislation from Springfield. And the reality is that you can limit taxes with maximum statutory rates, or you can limit taxes with PTELL. Take it one step further and try to limit senior citizens’ taxes with the assessment freeze. All of these methods are fraught with unintended consequences because they paint every taxing district with the same brush.

    PTELL may not be perfect, but the thought of Springfield politicians “fixing” the problem as they perceive it is frankly terrifying to me. The legislature that can’t control its own spending addiction is in no place to tell local taxing districts how to control costs.

    The only real solution is to elect people to serve on local boards who are truly responsive to the taxpayer – people who remember that the bureaucrats and lawyers work for us.

  2. gowader

    My house taxes actually went down a few hundred dollars this year. But my homes value went down about 12 thousand over the 2010 value. Hopefully though the tax caps will prevent taxing bodies like the Park District from gouging me even more. While giving their boss a big pay raise.

    • Ted Biondo

      gowader, your taxes went down because the school district, which represents 53% of your tax bill, gave taxpayers back the 58 cents and didn’t use the 3% inflation to which they were entitled under tax caps for a cut of $17.7M. RVC also decreased their taxes due to decreasing home values and Winnebago County kept their tax levy the same for the past three years.

      The city stuck taxpayers with the maximum tax they could with the tax rate rising almost 30 cents and the rest of the taxing bodies, except Rockford township, were somewhere in between. The township also lowered taxes. The Park District raised their tax rate over 11 cents, so the raises might be forthcoming.

      The tax caps are working exactly the opposite of the way they were intended in a down real estate market, and most taxing bodies are sure making use of it. You, however, have paid more than you should because the taxing districts may raise your taxes without voter approval to keep what they had the previous year and the generous state even lets them raise the rate to keep up with inflation. Has you salary got the same provisions???

  3. Les Reid

    Consider this. My car will go 100 miles per hour. Does that mean I have to drive it that fast? Tax money is like drugs. When one starts it is hard to stop and the need for more is always present.. These are the the very types of questions an educated voter should be asking candidates when they run for office. Ask more about what candidates think and how they approach situations. Never vote based on popularity or you will be disappointed every time.

  4. Chuck Sweeny

    to combat the tax-raisers, I’ve successfully challenged my assessment for three years running.

  5. Denny Wallace

    The Key is controlling the rate of increase of Gov’t spending… Politicians are conditioned to ALWAYS SPEND whatever there budget allows… (sadly thinking if they don’t spend it they won’t get as much next year)

    Give 10 years of getting more out of the same money we are already spending, i.e. zero or little increase year over year spending…. and the City of Rockford would be in great fiscal shape.

  6. Curtis Newport

    Congratulations, Chuck. Your assessment appeals do NOTHING to control the cost of government. They simply shift some of your tax burden to everyone else. Every other property owner, from the low income senior citizen to United Technologies, gets a little piece of the tax bill that would have been yours.

    Proud of yourself?

    • Ted Biondo

      Curtis, Chuck should be proud of himself because he’s informed about the process as all who have filed complaints. We have tried to inform everyone about the process and then took action. Most intelligent people do not wish to continue to live their lives at the lowest common denominator level of society, which is where the uninformed, the 75% or more of the people who don’t vote, etc. live, always waiting for someone else to do something for them.

      Citizens need to be informed and stay informed or suffer the consequences of their ignorance. I didn’t work everyday for 45 years plus over 20 years in school just to hand my earnings to someone else for public services, which 80% of the people don’t even use – we are paying for the 20% who screwed up their lives in some way or another, or didn’t know how to climb out of the hole they were left in by their bad parent(s)!

      Many people contribute to their church or give to charity – government service should not take on a charitable role, because government is highly inefficient and because the people who really need the help have to wait in line behind the government bureaucrats to take their cut and create jobs for themselves.

      That’s what 20 years of watching this process from the inside has taught me. There are obvious exceptions to this rule and most have something to do with finance and revenue not emotional diatribe, which clouds one’s view or focus.

  7. Brian Opsahl

    Rockford rates chased me out when my kids got to school age it was a no brainer for my family…I paid about 3200.00 in taxes for a 800 sq.ft home by elliot golf course.
    I moved to Stillman Valley into a 2100 sq.ft my first year taxes were only 2800.00 and after 14 years out there the taxes just now have reached that 3200 number..over all those years thats alot of money …

  8. Curtis Newport

    Every year I spend many hours giving presentations and clinics all over Boone County to educate people about the process. I agree that we need an educated public in order for them to actively participate in local government.

    Mr. Sweeney’s comment that he appealed his assessment “to combat the tax-raisers” leads me to believe he doesn’t understand the process at all. Maybe I should send him a personal invitation to my next clinic. Or maybe his comment was just poorly worded, or maybe I’m just interpreting it the wrong way.

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