Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Guest Editorial: Illinois Real Estate Taxes by Al Harris (Contributor)

[Contributor Al Harris, a vigorous respondent to this blog, starts the ball rolling with a superb commentary on out-of-control real estate taxes. Looks to me like he is interested in generating a real taxpayers’ revolution. If so, let it begin here! If you agree or disagree with Al, write your short assent or dissent on Reader’s Comments. If you want to do a commentary of your own on this blog, suggest a topic on Reader’s Comments. You’ll probably get an o.k. Then, so we don’t duplicate, write 200 words and send it to me email: : Thanks! I’d like to have at least one each day. Al has at least three or four more to get off his chest. Thanks a lot and outstanding job, Al!]

By Al Harris

Tom, thanks for the mention. I do get worked up on political issues because I see this one great state sliding to the left under the political Democratic trifecta of a Democratic mayor of Chicago, a Democratic governor, a Democratic House and Senate and a Democratic state Supreme Court. I firmly believe that Gov. Ryan greased the skids for this takeover.

Anyway, my first issue is Illinois Real Estate taxes. Real estate taxes in Chicago are out of control. Just talk to any small business property owner in Cook county or a home owner in Lake, Cook, McHenry counties, etc.

The low interest rates put in by the Fed led to an explosion of value which was eagerly taken up by assessors into valuation increases. Especially hard hurt were those in tear-down areas from Hinsdale to Highland Park. Tear-down values were extrapolated by the assessors to neighbors’ homes and produced high tax increases for everyone. For example, a friend in Bannockburn saw his house taxes go up from $15,000 in 1999 to $31,000 today. But you say there are tax caps. The tax caps affect the rate only not the assessment. Seniors could only protect themselves by becoming indebted to the state by allowing the taxes plus interest to accumulate on the property until sold which is only a confiscation of value.

Did the school districts in the suburbs restrain their take because of the valuation windfall? No, they grabbed the taxes and dramatically raised teacher and administrative salaries. Cal Skinner showed this on his website district-by-district. Drivers ed teachers making over $100,000. School district administrators like the recently-retired in the Palatine elementary district getting over $300,000 per year. And still the education union wanted more and more and more! On the news you only heard about the “poor areas” and not about the tax grabs in the suburbs! The places hardest hit were the Republican strongholds across the Chicago area.

There needs to be a real estate tax revolution in Illinois. A prop 87 style revolution. And the union will whine and cry about the “kids.”

On the other side, if you are a big connected commercial developer, donating bucks to the Metropolitan Planning Council, you get a TIF in many areas. A TIF is “Tax Incremental Financing” which was originally intended for blighted areas. It is now being used for places like Oak Brook or St. Charles. Simply put, a TIF is like using your taxes to pay down the construction mortgage cost of your home…or your big development. Walmart in Sandwich got such a TIF and sales tax rebate from Sandwich. Home Depot demanded a TIF from St. Charles. Hiffman developers demanded and got a TIF from Oak Brook for a retail mall. What does the home-owner get or small business owner get as the tax burden grows: nothing! The small business owner without tax breaks or TIFs is asked to compete on an uneven tax playing field with the boys like Walmart or Home Depot.

The answer is not the uneven tax swaps that are skewed toward the IEA (Illinois Education Association). The answer is a slash in government spending and a slash in school waste and outrageous salaries for the education elite. There must be a change in handling assessments that does not chase people out of their homes.

Something must be done or most people will be taxed out of their home. For many people the real estate tax is their biggest and most hated tax. It is time this issue was addressed!

Agree with Al? Disagree? Comment briefly on Reader’s Comments. Then we hope you think about writing a 200-word commentary like Al’s. Tell me what you’re thinking of doing on Reader’s Comments. Then when you get the o.k., send it to me at


  1. Al Harris appears to be on the right track. I don't know his background, but I'd gladly collaborate with him on the following plan...

    1. Cut Local Education taxes to zero. This would be a 50-70% property tax cut for every property owner in IL.

    2. Pass HB750s tax increases to get more $$ into state coffers

    3. Give every child in IL a $65-7500 scholarship to use at any school.

    4. Abolish the useless construct of the ficticious "School District" and make every IL public school an independent charter school run by principal, teachers, and parents who choose the school

    5. Create a savings component that allows parents to invest in college, tutoring, etc. etc. etc.


    There are numerous details that need to be worked out, but this plan empowers every parent with 100% local control while offering most IL taxpayers a tax cut.

  2. HB750 should be overwhelmingly rejected. I'd rather have schools funded at the local level. Why should kids in my neighborhood have to sacrifice? Why would anybody in their right mind want to give the State control (more control) over anything? Everything the State touches turns to garbage, this is no exception.

    1. Reject HB750
    2. Cut the state out completely, let local communities fund their schools
    3. Education tax credits for those who home school or send their children to private school
    4. Allow schools to reject students, make it easier to expel problem students
    5. Eliminate tenure

  3. We recently did a review of the Lake & Lake View townships (who were reassessed this year) and the *average* assessment increase is over 90% for some property classes.

    You can see the reports at: