Grant township assessor supports property tax freeze
As a proposal to freeze local property taxes in Illinois sits in limbo after the state Senate refused to consider it before recess this month, Jeri Barr, Grant township assessor, is among officials voicing support for the measure.
SB 851, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), would freeze taxes for two years in six counties: Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will, according to a memo from Bryan E. Smith, executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois lobbying group. Township boards in other counties and their constituents would be allowed to decide on a tax freeze by ballot measure.
Some Republicans had characterized the bill as “pandering” in the wake of a 32 percent hike in state income tax the legislature approved earlier this year, according to a report from Chicago’s CBS affiliate. Illinois households pay more than $8,000 annually in state and local taxes, ranking them No. 1 in the nation, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
The Peoria Journal-Star quoted Rauner as selling a property tax freeze to constituents last summer.
He was quoted in the story as saying, “I hear relentlessly about how difficult it is to raise a family, to make ends meet, how difficult it is to build a business in the state of Illinois with the property tax burden we’ve got.”got," he was quoted as saying.
Although the governor might be able to score some points with voters by championing a property tax freeze, some officials say it would rob citizens of basic services.
Jeri Barr, Grant township assessor in Lake County, acknowledged that the issue has become a political football.
“I believe the most important issue affecting the people in Grant township is the huge amount they pay in property tax,” Barr told the Lake County Gazette. “When someone is looking to get elected, it's a hot issue, but after the election nothing happens. This is why many people are giving up on Illinois – they can't afford to stay here."
Barr added her voice to the growing support for implementing a tax freeze. Although she agrees that the taxes support worthwhile projects, she said the overall amount of township budgets are miniscule compared to bigger projects.
Barr speaks from experience. She said Grant township is planning to extend its own property tax freeze for a fifth consecutive year.
“If you look at the portion of the property tax that goes to township government, I think you would agree that it is the smallest portion of the bill,” she said. “Which begs the question: Why isn't the media talking more about the school funding in Illinois that leads to approximately 70 percent of the property tax money needed?”
Barr said she has attended numerous board meetings at schools across the township, a remedy she recommends for low voter awareness.
“Grant High School currently carries more than 150 percent in reserves, which cost the taxpayers money that (the school) does not really need,” she said. “The explanation that I hear from all taxing bodies is if they do not take the maximum levy amount, they lose it forever.
“Something needs to change this mindset,” she said.