Illinois tax specialists and two candidates for elected office in Illinois cite faulty assessments, review board blunders and the highest-in-the-nation number of taxing bodies as some of the reasons for Illinois’ high property taxes.
The nonpartisan research and advocacy organization Reform for Illinois held a town hall meeting about the issue. The focus was on finding out what’s wrong with Illinois’ property tax system, as the state currently has the second highest property tax burden in the entire country. Only New Jersey’s is higher.
Wednesday, August 7, evening’s online meeting was hosted by Reform for Illinois Executive Director Alisa Kaplan and Director David Orr.
It featured Samantha Steele, longtime property assessor and June primary winner of the race for Cook County Board of Review, and Abdelnasser Rashid, former chief policy officer for Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and candidate for the 21st Illinois House District. Rashid’s Republican opponent, Matthew Schultz, was not part of the event.
One topic that got most of the focus was the Property Tax Assessment Board, or PTAB, which the panel said was improperly assessing the value of certain properties, which in return raises taxes.
“We have had scandals at the previous assessor’s office and the board of review and unnecessary layers of government,” Orr said. “When you have unnecessary layers of government, it usually only helps the insiders while the rest of us pay the freight.”
Illinois has more than 7,000 taxing bodies statewide, most of any state in the country even though it is only the sixth largest state by population.
Orr mentioned that in 2017, The Chicago Tribune revealed that for years, Cook County’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, favoring wealthy homeowners while punishing those who make less.
Steele said the Board of Review needs to fix several issues but pointed out that the Cook County system is similar to other states.
“The board of review is drastically understaffed, the training and the hiring process is limited, and job descriptions need to be reevaluated,” Steele said. “You can try and rework the system, but there needs to be guidelines because the system works in other jurisdictions.”
Property taxes are a significant source of income for local governments and are used to fund many services, including local public employee pensions and local public education. Assessments are important for calculating property tax bills for the property owner and can create problems if not valued properly. Rashid said issues with assessments can also create issues with the state’s school districts and how they are funded.
“They are the ones that are going to be on the hook when the Property Tax Assessment Board finally renders their decision years later,” Rashid said. “Then suddenly these schools are hit with these large budget holes.”
Rashid also said that the state is too heavily reliant on property taxes.
“By relying on property taxes, we are penalizing people who are trying to build up equity to have a comfortable retirement,” Rashid said. “We are taxing the average person way more than we should be.”
Orr said the group’s focus over the next few months will be finding ways to make the state’s property tax system “fairer” for Illinoisans.
This article originally appeared on The Center Square.