Illinois, it seems, leads the nation in something. Illinois has 6,994 local government units, with the majority of those wielding taxing authority. Anyone paying property taxes knows that they pay into multiple taxing bodies. My last tax bill listed some 13 different units with the school district taking the bulk of it, however there were still others nickel and diming me as well. One has to ask the obvious question - are all these authorities really necessary?
Well, it is a little of both. A yes and a no. The most oppressive taxing body is the school district, unfortunately it is a necessary evil given that the State of Illinois has taken the role of a deadbeat that doesn't want to support school districts perhaps as much as they should. They simply force the bulk of it upon homeowners, yet that is exactly why there is such a disparity between the have and have not districts. Communities with the means will have better schools and more resources under this system while communities that are in decline or living in poverty must educate their children with far less.
Using property taxes to fund education is inequitable, pure and simple. But let's not kid ourselves either, school districts that are able to support their needs better than others still sock it to parents for additional funds because the state remains continuously in arrears even with their meager share. Strange how the Illinois Lottery was to support education but the money winds up in the General Fund. If the State of Illinois were parents or custodians they would be convicted of child neglect with their record on education funding.
Until people get smart enough and demand real change from it cadre of thieves running the state nothing will change. For now, it remains what it is and property taxes will continue to used to primarily fund the schools. Of course there are still those other taxes on our property tax bills that I alluded to as well. They have names like Township Government, County Government, Library Districts, Sewer Districts, etc., etc., etc.. Most have been established via local referendum and in theory are limited in scope and duration. But then again, it hasn't been unheard of either that some of these taxing districts remain unnoticed on our tax bills long after their usefulness.
Matter-of-fact, there was a Plainfield Township Cemetery on our property tax bill when we first moved here and I questioned that, so I called the commission listed on the tax bill for an explanation. Now that was back in 2004 and even though I am still waiting for a call back from that "ghost board," I am happy to report that that tax has disappeared from our bills without explanation a year or two later after my message was left on some answering machine.
Certainly some of the taxing bodies are necessary. Our Township does quite a bit on the limited funds that they take and are often the first line of defense (if you will) when we have a question regarding local or county government. I don't mind supporting them, but at the same token, what the hell am I paying the Will County Board to do that the Township isn't already doing? And one shouldn't forget about the extra layers of pension contributions that these numerous taxing bodies generate.
There are other contributions that I question as well, but I think you get the drift.
If I were you, though, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to review your property tax bill - line by line. Finding out what you are being tagged for should be the first thing done when you receive that bill. Not only that, you have the right to know exactly how the money is used.
In the meantime, State Senator Terry Link (D-Waukegan) introduced The Local Government Consolidation Commission Act, SB1926 on February 10, 2011. It would establish a Consolidation Commission to create a recommended list of government units to be abolished or consolidated. How effective that would be is of particular interest to me considering that many of these units were created under local referendums to fund infrastructure that was unique to that community and something that the state wouldn't necessarily have participated in the first place. So I don't know how that would exactly work in the grand scheme of things.
But hey, I would think that this is something long overdue and I applaud the bill sponsor. I would, however, caution everyone to not hold their breathes too long waiting for any meaningful state tax reform.
After all, Illinois Politicians are notorious for enacting taxes - but they not very good at repealing any of them are they?