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City collects $4M utility taxes, now proposes fees to pay water bill

The Rockford Register Star reported Tuesday that City officials are proposing a fee for the “convenience” of paying our monthly garbage and water bills. The proposal calls for a $3 fee per transaction for one-time payments over the phone and a $2 fee for one-time payments online. On top of those fees, there would be a $2 monthly convenience fee for those who still get paper bills mailed to their home or $5 per paper bill. These fees are in addition to the almost $4 million dollars the city will collect by adding a 5 percent charge to...

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Home rule disenfranchises Rockford taxpayers

Government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. Home rule is government “despite” the people. If home rule is approved, putting aside for the moment both sides marketing campaigns, Rockford taxpayers will effectively be giving up their vote for or against any future referendums on tax issues, debt or sunset clauses that provide the checks and balance to hold city officials financially accountable. Illinois’ Home Rule is a one-size-fits-all statute, unlike surrounding states, which allow local officials and the community to create a...

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Home rule, no financial panacea for struggling Illinois municipalities

A four part survey by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies found that several significant changes occurred in home rule municipalities between 1986 and 2002. First and foremost, there was a very significant increase in the use of home rule taxing powers. Additional retail sales taxes were increased in 61% of the home rule cities, and property tax statutory limits were exceeded by two in five home rule municipalities. The study concluded that, “Clearly, taxation has become a major use of municipal home rule powers...

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Increased property tax exemptions shifts tax burden without relief

On April 6, 2017, the Illinois House passed HB0156 by an overwhelming vote of 108 to 1 expecting to provide much needed property tax relief in state counties by increasing the value of numerous property tax exemptions. Basically, the two most substantial exemptions approved would increase the exemption for seniors over the age of 65 to $6000 annually from the current $5000 and the General Homestead/Owner Occupied exemption to $8000 from the current $6000. Other exemptions increased in the bill would have much less impact on taxing districts...

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EAV Fluctuation has little effect on property taxes under Tax Caps

Most people in Rockford and around the state believe that when property values increase in a taxing district due to a real estate market turnaround, Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts expiring or new construction, the tax base increases and the net result will be lower property taxes in that district. It doesn’t work that way under current Illinois property tax laws. Taxes do not decrease simply because the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) increases in a given tax district since Winnebago County is subject to the Illinois Property Tax...

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Rockford’s proposed Property Tax Refund Program could cause tax rates to rise

Initially, the Rockford Homebuyer’s Property Tax Refund Program appears to be a well-intentioned proposal to eliminate some of the blight in the city and to revitalize home values. The program gives property tax refunds for three years to those who build single-family homes, or buy foreclosed or “short-sale” homes as their primary residence, anywhere within the City of Rockford, if the homes are under contract by the end of the year. After the property owners, who purchase a qualifying home, pay their normal property taxes, the city will...

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