To ensure my fingers are squarely on the pulse of the public, at least once a week I call state Sen. Chris Lauzen’s Aurora office to ask his eminently capable administrative assistant Kim Murphy the following question: “What are the fine citizens of Kane County calling about this week?”
Though it’s generally a random assortment of regular issues, sometimes there’s a theme. And last week’s theme was property tax bills, as in no one was happy with what they were asking for the first 2012 installment.
I suppose we could consider ourselves fortunate not to live in Elburn or Sugar Grove, the loci of this spring discontent. Apparently, some of those bills skyrocketed by 8 percent! That said, I’m not sure if anyone already paying $9,000 in property taxes can truly call themselves “lucky.”
And as you might expect, one of the usual suspects commenced to shrieking right here on Patch about the vast amount of money that goes directly to our schools. But the truth is that’s becoming more and more of a red herring.
As it was, is, and always shall be, in every city in this country, school districts will demand the majority of your tax dollars. It’s that simple. But they’re not nearly the only ones who have their fat little hands in our piggy bank.
Consider this, District 304’s portion of the Geneva property tax bill went up just 3.6 percent this year despite a mountain of school building debt that’s making the best of us nervous. I know it’s still too much, but it ain’t nearly as bad as the folks behind those phone calls have it.
Do the math and you’ll discover that the Kane County Forest Preserve got a 13.6 percent rate hike. What the heck is KCFP President John Hoscheit doing over there? Building gold-plated outhouses? I understand they’re buying up land while it’s cheap, but 13.6 percent in this economic climate? Not cool.
Both the Geneva Township and Township Road District asked for just 3.7 percent more, but they should’ve been flat or lower. Those folks think, because their portion of the tax bill is so small dollars-wise, no one’s really paying any attention.
It’s also true that Waubonsee tipped the scales with a disproportionate 10.8 percent increase, but that’s an investment I’m willing to make. I’d rather subsidize my neighbors once so they can reinvent themselves than support them for the rest of their lives.
The Geneva Park District, which takes almost as large a cut as the entire city of Geneva, got a 4.2 percent raise. (I still love you, Sheavoun!)
Also coming in at 4.2 percent hike was the Geneva Library which, when you consider that the definition of the word “library” is undergoing a radical reformation, is way too much. Despite all the digital evidence to the contrary, they’re still considering expansion!
The only entities that came in lower that District 304 were the county at 2 percent, and the city of Geneva at 2.2 percent. And the only reason Geneva came in lower is because the aldermen rebelled against the mayor and cut a proposed tax increase in half at the last minute.
Speaking of the city of Geneva, the property tax bill line item that stood out like the proverbial sore thumb is the ratio of pension dollars to the basic levy. For example, on my bill, the Forest Preserve gets $275 for operating expenses and another $5.50 for pensions. That’s a 2 percent ratio.
District 304’s pensions come in at 3 percent, the Park District at 7.2 percent, the library at 10.4 percent, and the city of Geneva—are you sitting down?—25.3 percent! That’s right! One out every four of our city tax dollars goes directly to keeping municipal employees in the lifestyle to which most of us would like to become accustomed.
Of course, most of it, especially fire and police, is mandated by Springfield, but even with the all the sheriff’s employees, the county still does better with a 21.6 percent ratio..
Perhaps if unnecessary car allowances didn’t count toward Geneva pension benefits, we might be doing a little bit better.
You can’t privatize police and fire, but Public Works and Human Resources? There are alternative ways of dealing with these out-of-whack pensions, and some of them might require a little thinking outside the box. (We won’t even get into the 85 percent health coverage Geneva city employees receive.)
Of course, hiring private companies may get you campaign contributions, but it doesn’t get you votes.
What drives me nuts is, the only politician in Kane County candidate who ran on a platform of freezing a property tax levy is Lauzen. But just as we voted for the school building referendum that put District 304 in a deep debt hole, we keep re-electing mopes who take the tax money and run.
And that mentality runs right on through down to the Library Board. Who cares if you neighbor loses their house?
Please don’t even try to use the slacker’s excuse that you didn’t vote, because that’s even worse. All a low turnout does is give the insiders an edge. For God’s sake! Kevin Burns ran for county chair on a platform of potentially raising taxes.
Don’t tell it me it can’t be done, either! By increasing employee insurance deductibles, Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond kept that tax levy flat!
So when you look at your first 2012 property tax bill, don’t bother Senator Lauzen, and don’t waste your time whining about it, either. Instead, trot up those stairs to the master bath and take a good long look at yourself in that massive mirror over the sink.
There’s the reason your property taxes are so high.