It’s not hard to understand why property taxes are a constant source of friction.
Property taxes are complicated and confusing. They come due in large lump sum payments so homeowners see just how much they are paying. Homeowners often see their taxes rise even when home values fall. And, even if the value of one’s home significantly increases on paper, it won’t net you any money until it’s sold.
As long as the cost of local services, like schools, police, and fire departments, goes up, property taxes will rise. In Illinois, local governments, including schools, are funded largely by property taxes. In DuPage County, school districts receive over 73 percent of all the property tax dollars paid on a typical bill.
Some controls have helped. In the 1990s, property tax caps were adopted in many areas of the state, including DuPage County. As a result, local districts may only grow at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index or 5 percent (whichever is lower).
My colleague, Rep. Ron Sandack, is working to address the issue of tax bills going up even when home values go down. DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin’s attempts to reduce the number of local governments and consolidate services is another example of a commendable attempt to control property taxes by reining in government spending.
Those are good examples of tax reform. Unfortunately, there are bad ideas as well. One longstanding plan to shift school funding from property taxes to income taxes sounds good in theory. But, study after study has shown that suburban taxpayers would pay more and get less. I’m all for reforming education funding, but not when it means marginalizing students and hiking income taxes.
So, what can a homeowner do about high property taxes?
First, make sure your home is assessed accurately and fairly. Next, make sure you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, including the general homestead exemption and the senior citizen homestead exemption.
Recently, I joined my colleagues House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Rep. Ron Sandack in hosting a “Property Tax 101” seminar that explored property tax law. If you were unable to attend, you can find the full presentation at: http://bit.ly/1qUxvnv or you can go to my website (www.senatorradogno.org) and click on the “Property Tax 101” link on the right side of the page.
Over the years, there have been many attempts to bring property taxes under control. More needs to be done. But, the truth is, it is all about spending. The only way to control property taxes is to control spending and that requires active involvement on the part of taxpayers to shrink the size and cost of government at all levels.
State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, represents Illinois' 41st Senate District and the Illinois Senate Republican Leader.