McConchie hears voters loud and clear, targets state's high property taxes
People have been telling state Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Dist. 26) that one of their biggest concerns in Illinois is high property taxes.
Their worries are now his worries, as he has made them a top priority.
“Property taxes (are the) top issue that I am concerned about and trying to do something about,” McConchie said. “(Illinois) has some of the highest property taxes in the nation.”
The state has a median property tax rate of 2.67 percent, compared with the national average of 1.31 percent. Tabulating the costs, a home valued at $200,000 will cost an average Illinoisan resident about $5,340 annually in taxes. For businesses, the cost could be much higher.
McConchie said one of the reasons why taxes are so high is because a large portion goes toward funding schools.
“Your average homeowner, when they look at their property tax bill, usually between 70 percent and 80 percent of their bill is education to fund their local schools,” McConchie said. “That is because the state’s support for schools is the lowest per student in the country...so we rely inordinately heavy on property taxes, which sometimes affects seniors and the poor disproportionately.”
To tackle the issue of high property taxes and school funding, McConchie has been assigned to a commission aimed at fixing the heavy dependency.
“I’m actually appointed by (Gov. Bruce Rauner) to the Education Funding Reform Task Force Commission.” McConchie said. “We’ve had a couple meetings now in which we are looking at how we change education funding in the state. The governor is committed to coming up with a solution. We definitely need to have some changes made to the way school funding is done.”
McConchie said finding a solution to school funding will not only help the schools, but help alleviate the heavy property tax burden placed on an already-diminishing population.
“I think that if it’s done in the right way, we have the ability to try to rein in property taxes from what it is now,” McConchie said. “I have some ideas on how to do that, but we’re going to have to see how this goes forward. Our commission is meeting every two weeks, and we’re tasked to come up with a solution by March (of next year) so that there is something we could vote on next year.”
While the state has had task forces before, McConchie said he believes this is the first time the state had a governor who has demonstrated a commitment to wanting to see funding reform go through. McConchie also said there is an air of seriousness taken by the leaders of both parties for school-funding reform not found previously.
“I’m very excited to be a part of this commission and to (be able) to learn about the process, as well as learn about what we can do to really try to provide good education for every student, but also try to rein in the out-of-control property taxes,” McConchie said.
The out-of-control costs have scared away residents and forced businesses to move out of Illinois to neighboring states. The taxes are not feasible for even the most successful of companies.
“If you’re a business and you have a really bad year…you can still be stuck with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, even if you didn’t make any money that year,” McConchie said. “If you have a really great year, you’re still going to be paying the same amount of property taxes.”
McConchie said that by reducing the state’s dependency on property taxes, businesses would be able to develop and help foster economic growth, and taxes would no longer be a burden weighing down business growth.
“If we are able to shift to more of a support system or other forms of taxation for property taxes, business would really benefit,” McConchie said. “Those that are doing really well would then (pay their taxes), but if they have a really bad year, they won’t really get slammed and perhaps go bankrupt in the process. It provides some better abilities for business to be able to operate.”