Activists throughout Illinois are calling for tax and public pension reform, arguing that homeowners are being forced to pay higher taxes even as their homes have lost value over the past 20 years.
A study by state government watchdog group Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) recently found that homeowners in Lake County have seen the values of their homes fall 31 percent since the market crash of 2007 – while taxes have increased by 2 percent.
Kathy Myalls, President of the New Trier Republican Organization and a Lake County Resident, says that Lake County has not fared as badly as the rest of the state.
President Kathy Myalls of the New Trier Republican Organization | Facebook
“Home values in Cook County are down 31 percent while property taxes are up 22 percent over that same period," Myalls said. "Across the state, property values are down 21 percent and property taxes are up 9 percent.”
Myalls said that many people don’t understand exactly how property taxes in the state work. The taxing bodies determine how much money their pool of taxpayers must raise; and then the homeowners must share the burden. If property values go down, or if there are fewer residents to help meet the cost, individual tax bills may still increase.
“If my taxes go down, my neighbors' taxes go up,” Myalls said. “The school district and library will still get the full amount they request. Taxing entities are not affected at all by changes in home values or appraisals.”
Myalls added that the state's massive pension debt is driving increased costs for local Illinois governments.
“The Illinois Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, has ruled that pension benefits are unchangeable virtually as of the date of hire," Myalls said. "In other words, If I am hired as a teacher today, then for as long as I am a teacher, the pension I was promised as of my date of hire cannot be diminished.”
She noted that these pensions often increase substantially every year, and must be paid before the salaries of current public servants such as policemen, firefighters and teachers. Myalls also pointed to longer life expectancies creating situations where employees draw pensions for longer periods of times than they spent working in their careers.
“The private sector did away with pensions more than 20 years ago specifically for these reasons," Myalls said. "Defined benefit retirement places all of the market risk on the employer, and in the case of public workers, you and I are the employers. Pensions are not sustainable any longer without major reform.”