It is no secret that the main impetus for my desire to run for Lake County Board is based on the incredibly onerous property tax system here in Illinois and Lake County.
Our taxes here in Lake County are 300 times higher than the national average and 200 times higher than the state average.
It is important to know why, before we can start to identify how to fix it.
Villages often get the blame for high taxation, since they are the taxing body closest to the people. In reality, however, most local villages tend to be very diligent stewards of the tax dollars they are entrusted with.
I have charted the property taxes for the four communities in Lake County Board District 3; Lindenhurst, Lake Villa, Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Heights. I broke down the data by High School District, since that is the easiest division for illustration purposes. I based the data on a home assessed at a fair market value of $200,000. The school category includes elementary, middle and high schools where applicable. The data is based on 1 representative home for each of the high school districts. Numbers will change slightly with different homes that have different primary schools feeding it, however, the differences are negligible and non-consequential to the point.
As you can see, the local taxing bodies, individually, have relatively low levies. In fact, all of them combined only account for about 35% of the entire tax bill. It is only when you bring in to view the school levy, that an obvious problem becomes more apparent. Schools account for approximately 65% of the tax bill, yet so much time, effort and money has been spent trying to tell us the problem is our villages and our townships.
Are schools the main culprits in our property tax burden? Absolutely not. Schools are necessary for the education and foundation of our children and of course they have to spend money. Yes, I believe there are things the state can do to help our districts save money: Consolidating school districts, getting rid of unfunded state mandates to name a couple. But the real problem lies not with the schools themselves, yet how they are funded.
In all of our neighboring states, the state covers about 50% of the school funding, with the remainder being covered by federal funding and property taxes. In Lake County, most of our funding comes from property taxes, in many cases as high as 90%.
It is this funding formula that is making Lake County Property taxes one of the highest in the nation.
Additionally, as the Forest Preserve continues to acquire new land, that land gets removed from the property tax rolls. Every dollar of real estate acquired by the Forest preserve is no longer sharing in the paying of property taxes into perpetuity. Over the past 10 years, almost $200 Million dollars in real estate was permanently removed from the property tax rolls. The tax that would have been generated from that property is then distributed to all of the remaining property tax payers to make up.
Additionally, that land can no longer be developed by residential or business development that could add to the tax base and further reduce our tax burden.
Open space is great, but we must approach it with a more careful and measured approach.