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Today’s number: 6

Friday, Aug 7, 2015

* Reuters

Mary Beth Jachec lives in a three-bedroom house in Wauconda, a village of 14,000 in Illinois, 45 miles northwest of Chicago. Her semi-detached brick home is unassuming. Her tax bills are not.

The 53-year-old insurance manager gets a real estate tax bill for 20 different local government authorities and a total payout of about $7,000 in 2014. They include the Village of Wauconda, the Wauconda Park District, the Township of Wauconda, the Forest Preserve, the Wauconda Area Public Library District, and the Wauconda Fire Protection District.

Then there is Wauconda Road and Bridge, not to be confused with Road and Bridge, Wauconda Gravel, or with Wauconda Special Road Improvement and Gravel unit – all three of which have imposed separate taxes on her and the village’s other homeowners.

Those three road entities come under the auspices of Wauconda Township. Officials there struggled to explain exactly what they each do, and why three separate taxing bodies are needed. The Wauconda Township Highway Commissioner, Joe Munson, said: “They are all for road maintenance.” So why three? “I don’t know why,” Munson said. “It’s always been that way.” […]

The average homeowner pays taxes to six layers of government, and in Wauconda and many other places a lot more. In Ingleside, 55 miles north of Chicago, Dan Koivisto pays taxes to 18 local bodies. […]

The state is home to nearly 8,500 local government units, with 6,026 empowered to raise taxes, by far the highest number in the U.S. Texas – whose population is more than twice that of Illinois - is second highest with about 5,150 local government units. Florida, with a population 54 percent greater than Illinois, has just 1,650, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:15 pm:

    A real issue that Rauner should be focused upon.

  2. - Almost the Weekend - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:16 pm:

    Another reason why Illinois has the least amount of state workers per capita. We have the most local governments per capita in the country.

    If you struggle to explain the function or role of your existence. I don’t think that is a vital service.

  3. - No Raise - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:18 pm:

    This is outrageous but has been talked about for so long and yet, nothing ever gets done. Hopefully, Rauner will pare down these excessive taxing bodies. Still, this ridiculous taxing structure is exactly why we retired and left Illinois for good. And once you leave and read about this stuff, you wonder why you were ever there in the first place.

  4. - iThink - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:19 pm:

    While I agree with the premise of the article, and am sure some combining of taxing districts would be sure to increase efficiencies - unless there is a corresponding increase in state taxes to replace the rather regressive property tax funding of education in this state - where will the money come from?

    Ohh.. and this quote takes the cake.. ““I pay $271 a month just to the school district alone,” he said. “And I don’t have children.”"

    I can’t believe they would even publish this nonsense. I don’t have a car, yet I still pay for the roads. I don’t know or like any old people yet I still pay for their subsidies. /s

  5. - BW - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:23 pm: Their website does not aid their cause any in my opinion.

    “The Highway Commissioner’s levy may be subject to review by the Trustees, but the Board cannot alter the levy. Thirty days before adoption of the budget and appropriation ordinance for roads and bridges, the Highway Commissioner submits to the Township Clerk and Township Board of Trustees a tentative budget. The proposed budget is then available for public inspection and review for 30 days before final action. Once the budget and appropriation ordinance is adopted, the Highway Commissioner has statutory power to expend the funds according to the line items established in the appropriation ordinance. In many respects, the Township Highway Department is a separate government. Neither the Township Board of Trustees nor the Supervisor has any jurisdiction over the Highway Commissioner or the road district employees.”

  6. - Chicago Guy - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:25 pm:

    This is a reform issue the Dems should take the lead on or at least support.

  7. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:26 pm:

    There are 13 separate lines on my tax bill, each taking a bite, including something called the “North River Expanded Mental Health Serv.” whatever that is. Well more than half of the total dollar amount is for CPS. My guess is, for most people, the schools represent by far the biggest property tax expense.

  8. - Anon221 - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:26 pm:

    “I don’t know why,” Munson said. “It’s always been that way.” […]

    Well… find out WHY! Good grief! Rauner doesn’t need to do the paring down, local governments would earn more support from their constituents if they would just admit (in some cases) that things can/need change. Some local officials won’t want change (the road commissioner that makes $32+K per year for maintaining 5 miles of road, for instance), but others will be thoughtful and interested in helping make local improvements to what is collected. I’m not saying it would be easy, but it is possible to do.

    And I know the old saying, “If we lose it, we’ll never get it back.” Well, maybe in today’s modernity, you don’t need it any more.

  9. - Anon - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:27 pm:

    As the permissive attitude towards corruption, pay to play politics, and graft in general, starts to fade this will get better.

    As email records and computer databases become modernized it will be more difficult to hide impropriety, this will get better.

    The resistance to reform on in this issue gets weaker each year as many of those elected positions become less and less significant to political machines as political machines are less able to utilize the dole.

    Especially when folks start to realize that there are modern campaign tools that are cheaper, more efficient, and legal that can achieve better campaign results.

  10. - Joe M - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:30 pm:

    ==Another reason why Illinois has the least amount of state workers per capita. We have the most local governments per capita in the country.==

    If most of these local government bodies were to be consolidated, they would be consolidated into county or city government services. That would not effect the number of state employees. Nor would those services become part of state government.

    The questions is how much would county or city taxes go up, if they had to take on dozens of these local government services. Would one’s property tax bill really go down if say the county became responsible for roads and bridges that a township was previously responsible for.

    It also depends on the type and quality of local services we want. Do we want an independent library that can set its own level of services based on its tax revenues - or do we want a library that is part of city government and the first to get appropriations cut when the city wants to cut expenses?

  11. - Gregor - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:31 pm:

    Quoted: “““I pay $271 a month just to the school district alone,” he said. “And I don’t have children.””

    That there tells you everything you need to know about the problem, and what kind of people are behind the problem. The same kind that resent paying for police and fire protection since “they’ve never come to my house yet”. The kind that won’t support public libraries because they themselves use Amazon, or private bookstores, and that don’t support public transportation because they’ve got a car for every member of their family.

    The political campaigns, particularly on the conservative side, pander to these solipsistic (redacted) in every way, and you can see for yourself the kind of mess that puts us all in. We’re all in this collectively, and that’s the only way we’ll get out of trouble.

  12. - Federalist - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:32 pm:

    Do local government services need to be vastly reduced. Of course, and this has been talked about for 50 years.

    Will that really mean a reduction in taxes? Don’t count on it. But if there are those who can guarantee that it will I wish they would go on record and then have a fact check five years later.

  13. - Federalist - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:34 pm:

    @Joe M - Friday,

    Good and thoughtful post that at least makes one question the CW on this issue.

    Even though I still believe that at least some of the local governemtns need to be consolidated.

  14. - OneMan - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:39 pm:

    The questions is how much would county or city taxes go up, if they had to take on dozens of these local government services. Would one’s property tax bill really go down if say the county became responsible for roads and bridges that a township was previously responsible for.

    Yes, to some degree they very well could and likely would.

    Lets use the township road example, Oswego township 30 miles of road between the commissioner 95K and the head supervisor 50K that’s 140K of just salary. Do you think for every mile of road a town or county adds it costs almost 5K, just in supervisory costs?

    Or to use another example, Aurora township a few years back purchased a street sweeper. Do you think that thing is utilized to it’s fullest potential. No, it just sits around most of the time. Just in some of these cases being able to get more out of physical assets is going to save money.

    Does anyone think that removing these units of government gets rid of all of their expenses, no. But lets not act like there isn’t some overhead here that could go away.

    Finally, it’s just silly when we have taxing entities and those behind them don’t know why they exist. Only in Illinois.

  15. - 100 Miles West - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    One Man hits it on the head. There are many townships that have less than 1000 residents, but the same management structure and equipment of a township or city with 10,000 people.

  16. - Liberty - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:53 pm:

    Local taxes for local services. Home values in Waconda went up by 5.2% last year alone.

  17. - 62656 - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:54 pm:

    Maybe they should just do like they do in most of New England & concentrate just about everything at the Township level. No overlapping jurisdictions (i.e. the Township takes care of all roads within the Township), people who live in town pay the same rate at those in country (i.e. instead of people in town paying for both city & county police, while those in the country pay for only the county), it clears out all the special use districts, & every piece of land can be covered by townships.

  18. - Joe M - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 1:59 pm:

    ==“I pay $271 a month just to the school district alone,” he said. “And I don’t have children.”==

    If folks like that don’t understand civic duty and responsibility to society, then perhaps they should at least think about what the value of their house would be if their area has sub-par schools. Trying to sell a house in an area with bad schools is tough.

  19. - Cassandra - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:00 pm:

    From what I have observed over the years, closing down each one of any designated for closure would require a protracted, Herculean struggle on the part of the politicians and bureacrats trying to close them. Rauner wouldn’t have time for many of those struggles.

    One problem, of course, is that a number of somebodies, likely politically connected somebodies, make a nice living off these entities, and then there are the folks living off associated contracts and legal fees.

    Like taxing retirement income and corporate loopholes, the notion of reducing the number of these local govt bodies rises every spring and is usually gone by summer. So, a little late this year, but so is everything else.

  20. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:03 pm:

    Many lake county residents pay 70 percent of their property tax bills for education. At the same time the State contribution per student is as low as 10% as what the State sends to the Chicago school district.

    If it is reasonable to allocate 70% of the property tax bill for suburban districts to education then Chicago should provide the same level of support before they whine about fairness.

  21. - BIG R. Ph. - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:03 pm:

    One would think that Gov. Rauner would jump at the chance to abolish a layer of government. Interestingly he is still sitting on this:

    This will abolish Belleville Township that has the exact same boundaries as the City of Belleville.

  22. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:05 pm:

    Wauconda is still a small town, but it’s population has more than doubled the last 20 years.I imagine there’s been some pretty heavy school and infrastructure costs associated with that.

  23. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:05 pm:

    Indiana had a structured effort, led by a respected retired Supreme Court judge, to consolidate units of government. As always, the devils in the details.

    Sometimes more is better. I would like to see Cook split into three counties; with one being the combined city and county of Chicago. Would also like to see Chicago School district split into 20 or so districts. It is easier to reform smaller units.

  24. - Sir Reel - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:15 pm:

    I agree with Oneman. Yes consolidation into city and county government would mean city and county government taxes would go up. Duh.

    But taxes for all these special units of government would not just go down, they would go away. Does anyone really think it would be a wash?

    The reason it’s so hard to do away with these special units of government is that most if not all of them have elected officials who are wired into other politicians who would have to make consolidation happen.

    Years ago I looked at a house in Ft. Collins Colorado that at the time was priced 3 times the value of my house with lower property taxes. I encourage all those who don’t think Illinois property taxes are out of control to do a similar comparison the next time they’re out of state.

  25. - OneMan - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:15 pm:

    In the Oswego district we added a new building virtually every year for over a decade. Suffice to say there are some costs associated with that.

  26. - Bogey Golfer - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    Where I reside, school, park, fire protection, sanitary and library districts were formed prior to the incorporation of villages/cities. Consequently, taxing bodies are all over the place. And yet people (at up to now) prefer the local control these provide in lieu of having one mega-entity govern everything. What I don’t understand that as municipalities annex unincorporated property and township roads become municipal streets, the tax rate for township roads remain unchanged.

  27. - anon - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:19 pm:

    The LaGrange Public Library and the LaGrange Park Public Library are eight blocks apart on LaGrange Rd. After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the LaGange Village officials to become a library district and add LaGrange Park, LaGrange Park by referendum created its own library distict. In a lot of cases if you want services you have to create a government to do it.

  28. - Joe M - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:27 pm:

    How many of these public hearings have you attended? I have to admit that I have never attended any. I should be attending them, but I don’t.

    “The Truth-in-Taxation Law establishes the procedures that taxing districts must follow when they adopt their levies. If a taxing district proposes an aggregate levy that is more than 5 percent higher than the total amount of taxes it billed in the previous year, it must publish the required notice in a local newspaper and hold a public hearing.

    At the public hearing, the taxing district must explain the reasons for its levy and proposed
    increase. Anyone who wants to present testimony must be given the opportunity to do so. After
    the hearing, the taxing district may adopt the tax levy.”

  29. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:27 pm:

    “I pay $271 a month just to the school district alone,” he said. “And I don’t have children.”

    “That problem is in St. Louis, not here in Wauconda, so I don’t see why I should pay for it!”

    “I don’t even drive a car, so why do I have to pay for roads?”

    “If you can’t afford medicine for your kids, then you should have thought of that before you had them!”

    “I don’t want to pay for anything I don’t get!”

    “I don’t go outside. I’m not paying for mosquito control!”

    “I’m not Jewish. No aid to Israel!”

    This is consumer market mentality, not citizen mentality. After a decade of thinking that we can all customize our lives so that we can get what we want, whether it is a Whopper, or a pizza, a cellular phone plan or a t-shirt with our name on it - we have forgotten what makes us all the same.

    Citizenship. What would have happened if our great grandparents decided to only fight WWII based on who they believed was a bigger threat - Japan or Germany? How would have this consumer market mentality have solved our nation’s problems if our ancestors thought like we do?

    Get a grip people. While it is fine to demand a specific shade of aqua at Lowes, it is not fine to use Kim Kardashian logic regarding government.

    I’ve actually read people thinking that it would be good that governments let you opt out of some services, or detail services in a way to let you know what each of your pennies go towards. Pathetic! How about trying to be a citizen?

    You want to return to the day when you had to have paid up your fire bill to get the firemen to come and put out your house fire? You want to return to the day when you had to pay a toll as soon as you left your neighborhood? You want to return to those bad old days, because you think you can save a few bucks?

    “We moved to Sunset City North because there are no schools, no snow removal equipment costs, not expensive playground equipment needing to be insured, no one is allowed to live here if they are under the age of 55!”

    Market mentality is my nice way of saying apartheid-thinking, BTW.

  30. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:33 pm:

    Gee, not too many defenders of the multiple layers of local government. While I know it wouldn’t be easy, I would suggest that Rauner crusade on this rather than killing unions.

  31. - steve schnorf - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:33 pm:

    Anon 1:27 Corruption, permissive, pay-to-play, graft, impropriety, dole: I simply have no idea what you might even remotely be referring to on this chain about multiple taxing districts. Do you?

  32. - Archiesmom - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:35 pm:

    Drop the mic, Vanilla Man. Your job is done.

  33. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:37 pm:

    One person’s idea on a Friday afternoon.
    Step One: Combining all public school districts into unit school districts. The outcome is fewer school districts and fewer administrators.

    Step Two: Turnover all township functions to the counties. Eliminate township government and slightly increase county government.

    Step Three: Turn over all drainage district functions to the counties. All drainage districts can be funded by special service areas without need of corporate governance.

    Step Four: Eliminate the mosquito abatement districts, museum districts, street light districts and port districts and reassign these special district duties to either city or county. Use special service areas instead when funding is required.

    Step Five: Keep the library districts, fire protection districts, park districts, forest preserve districts, water districts and sanitary district intact. Incentive consolidation of these special districts so you can try to capture an economy of scale.

    If these five steps were taken, Illinois no longer leads the nation in units of local government, yet all services remain intact.

  34. - Archiesmom - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:38 pm:

    Lest my 2:35 comment be misconstrued, I agree that consolidation desperately needs to be studied. I have never lived in a place with more governing and regulatory entities, and I’ve been live in those behemoths CA and NY. sensible reform has got to be possible.

  35. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:39 pm:

    I’m guessing when Ms. Jachec sells her house, “Close to Great Neighborhood Public Scnools” will be at the top of the listing sheet.

    Schools are the ballgame when it comes to property values in the suburbs.

  36. - AJ_yooper - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:41 pm:

    Simplifying and consolidating governmental units, including schools, should be able to save some money, for sure. Some individuals like these elected or appointed positions as they may get a stipend, insurance, or some other benefit.

    How about taking on the treasure chest of all of the Illinois boards, commissions, and authorities? That would shake up the state and probably save some real money. Could it happen?

  37. - Jack Stephens - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    Childless adults subsidize the “heterosexual lifestyle” with Welfare Entitlements!

  38. - walker - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:44 pm:

    Would consolidation of services actually reduce costs and thereby potentially property taxes? The answer is yes, at least between townships and villages in Chicago suburbs.

  39. - john doe - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:47 pm:

    About 20 some years ago,there was a movement in Illinois to abolish township government. However it didn’t even get on the ballot.

  40. - Bogey Golfer - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 2:57 pm:

    About 15 years ago, a study was undertaken by two adjoining school districts as to whether it made sense to merge. In fact, property owners in the smaller district would have seen their tax bills increase. It never went to a referendum.

  41. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    Yeah, this issue gets trotted out periodically. Folks gnash their teeth and wring their hands. THE HORROR!

    OTOH, we have folks here, and elsewhere, who continue to suggest that things aren’t all that bad here in the land of Lincoln. They will compare us to other nearby states and puff their collective chests out with pride.

    $7K in taxes Wauconda? From a half dozen taxing bodies? smh

    But, the news cycle will move on to some other crisis and this one will be left behind. I suppose some may insist something be done about it. Oh, Prunella, let’s hear from the gallery just what genius idea could be floated that could actually wrest that taxing power away from these entrenched entities with ANY likelihood of success. Armageddon would be easier to live thru than listening to the collective whining from 6K taxing bodies and their claims of victimhood.

  42. - JB - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 3:19 pm:

    Consolidation of like governmental services would result in a savings cost and more efficiency and better effectiveness

  43. - Professor - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 3:25 pm:

    The comments seem to run the map. Perhaps we need to acknowledge our political culture: We simply reject central government, of any type. Local government is the preference of most Americans and it has been since 1789. Remember states rights? In modern times is it the most efficient type of government? Well, we could argue about that.

  44. - Joe M - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 3:33 pm:

    Not all townships in Illinois are alike. There is a huge difference in the operations of townships in the larger urban areas compared to the operations of townships in the remote rural areas. For one thing, there aren’t nearly as many salaried employees in rural townships - and those that do receive a salary aren’t getting paid anywhere near the figures mentioned for road commissioners in earlier posts about collar county townships.

    Also, in the rural areas I would trust a township road commissioner to have the snow on the roads plowed in a timely manner than if the county highway department was responsible. Many of the rural townships cover around a 6 mile by 6 mile area, with the township commissioner living within that area - and the township garage located in that area.

    It is important that the roads be plowed in a timely manner in rural ares so that the school buses can make it thru their routes, and people can make it through the country roads to work - and for emergencies. When I lived in such a rural township, one of my neighbors had a heart attack during a severe snow storm in the middle of th enight. The roads were deep in snow. A call to the road commissioner who lived about a mile away, got that road plowed immediately and the man’s family was able to get him to the hospital. A call to the county transportation department 25 miles away in the middle of the night probably wouldn’t have yielded the same results.

  45. - Ghost - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 3:44 pm:

    The problem with a property tax freeze is the money has to come from somewhere. Take the above, lot of infrastructure money there. So if you freeze property tax, you then get sales and other taxes hiked, maybe a city income tax etc to replace it.

    I am mot opposed to a property tax freeze, but somone needs to explain the fall out. If my property tax drops to 5000 from 7000, but i pay an extra 4000 a year in new taxes on local purchases and income etc…. Its a net loss and costs me more to freeze taxes. So how will money be replaced or what will be lost id the freeze passes.

    My guess is that wealthy home owners wont see their sewers and roads crumble away…. But lower income areas will see things fall apart as money for repairs and support is frozen away……

  46. - DuPage - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 4:13 pm:

    A lot of these tiny agencies have no paid positions. Merging them with an agency that does the same work with paid positions might actually cost more.

  47. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 7, 15 @ 4:16 pm:

    Ghost, I expect some sort of property tax freeze to be Rauner’s out in the impasse.

    And then I expect the GA to start the teachers pension shift to local districts.

    Stuff rolls downhill.

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