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Jeff Ward: The Truth About Your Property Taxes

I'm getting so aggravated, I may just run for mayor!

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.

Justa H. May 09, 2012 at 12:20 AM
In 2003, Iran had Baghdad Bob. Now 10 years later he has reappeared in Illinois as Geneva Jeff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&v=W9aW1atFLMM&NR=1 Baghdad Bob was the chief misinformation officer who would present ridiculously false infomration to the people of Iran in order to ingratiate himself the ruling party. Geneva Jeff is the chief misinformation officer for anything school board related and he is willing to put forth ridiculous statements on their behalf. Geneva Jeff — what is your motivation for serving as propaganda puppet to this regime?
Justa H. May 09, 2012 at 01:00 AM
In 2003, Iraq had Baghdad Bob. Now 10 years later he has reappeared in Illinois as Geneva Jeff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&v=W9aW1atFLMM&NR=1 Baghdad Bob was the chief misinformation officer who would present ridiculously false infomration to the people of Iraq in order to ingratiate himself the ruling party. Geneva Jeff is the chief misinformation officer for anything school board related and he is willing to put forth ridiculous statements on their behalf. Geneva Jeff — what is your motivation for serving as propaganda puppet to this regime?
John R May 09, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Jeff, Thank you for the words of encouragement and support. I took quite a beating last week from the taxFact folks. I suspect the bullying/intimidation thing they have going might actually be a strategy designed to discourage supporters of 304 and the board from speaking up. But it ain't gonna work :) I've been busy talking to community leaders and residents so have not fixated on these post over the last week. We're taking it slow but I can tell you there are a lot of people out there who are very concerned about how taxFact are conducting there campaign. If your one of those people feel free to email me at District304.geneva@gmail.com Together, in a respectful manner, we can find a better way forward. Property taxes and quality education are a huge concern. Let's focus our energy on finding solutions which will benefit all of our community. John R
Jim MacRunnels May 09, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Here is the real problem...Kane County had a 21% voter turnout. Until the payers have had enough the band will play on. Two elections ago the Kane County Forest Preserve passed a $34 million bond and only 15% voted on it. How much did the KCFP portion of your bill go up? The payers continue to let things happen to them.
Patrick Madison May 28, 2013 at 04:06 PM
As a new member of the community, I have had the privilege of seeing my actual tax bill for the first time. What I can't get over is two glaring numbers...2004..$9758, 2012..$12761..what a joke. We all know that our home values have dropped, yet taxes have continued to increase. I love the "self fulfilling prophecy" that is built into the property tax code that tax levy can be and is independent of home values. Except of course when home values are high. A few interesting facts that I notice on my tax bill also..is that the Fair Cash Value of my home is $50,000 more than what my house appraised for when I bought it in June 2012? Also, Mr. Bob McQuillan is absolutely correct, the School District is exactly 67.6% of my entire tax bill and accounted for 97% of my increase for this year. I cannot help but notice all the for sale signs that have popped up in my community over this past year and I am leaning toward a good portion of the sales being initiated by the overwhelming amount of property tax. Here is a cut a paste from the Kane County Tax Assessors website and I am forced to believe that this is true. Q: My assessed value declined; why did my tax bill go up? A: Your taxes may be higher than they were last year for any or all of four general reasons: • The local governments (such as schools and municipalities) in your area may have approved a higher tax levy than last year. Bob McQuillan, to make it simple, who or whom is responsible for this. Educate me.

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