Daily Herald | Griffin: Taxes grow even as property values drop

TUA Executive Director Rae Ann McNeilly was quoted by the Daily Herald in a front-page story about Illinois property taxes and property values.

griffinDHThe amount of property taxes owed by Avon Township property owners last year was 14.7 percent of the assessed value of all the property there.
Five years earlier, it was just 9.5 percent.
The growth of the tax portion in that Lake County township is the biggest among 44 suburban townships analyzed by the Daily Herald for tax years 2009 to 2013. But property owners in other townships like Hanover and Leyden in Cook County, Wayne in DuPage County and Dundee in Kane County are in similar positions.
It’s one way of showing how homeowners’ taxes can rise even as their property values drop.
“That’s huge,” said Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of Taxpayers United of America. “For the average citizen, their home is their most valuable asset, so when it decreases in value, that hits them very hard. When their tax bill is higher, they’re squeezed out.”
During those five years, properties in Avon Township, which includes much of the Round Lake area, experienced a 32.8 percent decrease in value, while property tax obligations increased by 3.5 percent.
On average, the equalized assessed value of the 44 townships decreased by 26.8 percent during those five years. Meanwhile, taxing bodies in those townships averaged an 8.3 percent increase in tax levies.
In every township, the property taxes owed grew as a percentage of the overall assessed value. The growth in taxes owed compared to property values tended to be most pr nounced in less affluent areas.
“Some areas were hit harder than others,” said Craig Dovel, DuPage County supervisor of assessments. “You look at those communities and maybe the market didn’t do as well.”
In Naperville Township, property owners in 2009 owed taxes equaling 6.7 percent of the total assessed value of the township’s properties. Five years later taxes were 8.5 percent of the total assessed value, an increase smaller than the average 3.1-percentage-point growth. The situation was similar in townships like Downers Grove, Cuba and Ela.
Many property owners seek lower assessments as a way of reducing their tax burden. However, since the Great Recession began in 2008, every owner essentially saw a decrease in property value while taxes continued to climb, erasing any financial benefit for most individuals.
The biggest drop in assessed value over the five years was in Hanover Township, with a 36.4 percent decrease. Maine, Elk Grove and Schaumburg townships in Cook County each saw assessed values drop by 34.7 percent during that time, according to assessment records.
Batavia Township property owners saw the smallest decline in property values with a 15.8 percent drop between 2009 and 2013.
Dovel believes the residential market is stabilizing and could soon grow.
“You have to remember, (assessors) are looking at a three-year history,” he said.
In 2009, taxpayers in all 44 townships owed more than $7.4 billion in property taxes. By 2013, that figure had increased to a little more than $8 billion, according to tax extension records from the treasurers’ offices in Cook, Kane and Lake counties and the DuPage County clerk’s office.
Property owners in Kane County’s Aurora Township saw their property tax obligations increase just one-half of 1 percent from 2009 to 2013. Meanwhile, property owners in Rutland and Plato townships in Kane County had property tax increases of more than 26 percent during that time span.
Property owners in Wauconda Township in Lake County also saw their property tax obligation increase by more than 20 percent, according to the tax records.
“It’s scary when you think about it because you really don’t own your home,” McNeilly said.
“You can’t keep your property if you don’t pay your hefty tax bill.”

Corporations: Beware of Political Thug, Dick Durbin!

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CHICAGO – Senate Majority Whip, Richard J. “Dick” Durbin (D) is abusing his political power, forcing corporations to continue paying the extraordinarily high Illinois and U.S. corporate tax rates, according Jim Tobin, President of Taxpayers United of Illinois (TUA).
“Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, was overly-polite in calling Durbin ‘The Senate’s lead political thug and lead political henchman,’ said Tobin. Durbin is a left-wing low-life who could comfortably fit into Castro’s regime.”
“Politicians and government bureaucrats believe that taxpayer dollars belong to them, not to the persons and companies who earned them. So, when a corporation such as Walgreens tries to save its shareholders $4 billion over five years by moving its headquarters to Switzerland, he bullies them into staying and paying the high Illinois and U.S. corporate taxes.”
Durbin is celebrating the Walgreens shakedown, says Moore, pointing out that the big losers were the shareholders — including thousands and thousands of middle class Americans — whose retirement funds include Walgreens stock. The stock fell in the 24 hours after the announcement by more than 10 percent and so shareholders lost at least $6 billion on the announcement, according to Moore. “That’s a lot of financial wreckage from one single senator,” Moore added.
Durbin is up for reelection this November, and although Illinois is a solidly Democratic state, Moore states, “Don’t be surprised if fed up Illinois voters have tired of Durbin’s ham-handed antics and his economic illiteracy.
The Chicago Tribune points out that Durbin has a new target as he tries to halt American firms from moving corporate headquarters overseas to cut their tax bills: Hospira, a Lake Forest-based company that makes injectable drugs and infusion products. Durbin wrote the Hospira CEO a letter urging him not to take the firm’s tax dollars overseas.
“Durbin may be a hero to entrenched labor unions,” said Tobin, “but he is an embarrassment and a detriment to our state and to the U.S. Senate. He is so over-the-top in his left-wing rants that even Democrats are edging away from him. This November is our chance to dump Durbin and elect a senator who isn’t a thuggish ideologue whose policies cost jobs and economic freedom, stunting growth.”

Journal-Standard | “Tax fighting” organization shines spotlight on Stephenson County pension payouts

TUA’s pension project on Stephenson County, Illinois, is featured in this article from Journal-Standard.com.
journalstan_stephensonFREEPORT — A retired local teacher stands to collect $4.2 million over the course of his lifetime pension payout, according to Chicago-based organization Taxpayers United of America.
The group held a press conference Wednesday at the Freeport Hampton Inn at which it released documents naming scores of retired public employees in Stephenson County receiving what the group calls “gold-plated government pensions.”
The documents highlight one 2003 retiree from Freeport School District 145 who is receiving more than $130,000 in annual pension, increasing by 3 percent compounded interest per year. The organization said that retiree already received more than $1.1 million from the fund and stands to get $3 million more by the time he turns 85. The group said he contributed less than $120,000 to his pension and retired at age 56.
The group obtained the information by filing Freedom of Information Act requests with retirement systems such as the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and State Universities Retirement System, according to the organization’s executive director, Rae Ann McNeilly.
Taxpayers United of America is a self-described “tax fighting” organization formed 38 years ago. Members of the group have traveled to 19 states to disclose details of the results of their FOIA requests.
“It’s important to get these individual numbers out to the community to slice it down to the numbers that average taxpayers can understand and relate to,” McNeilly said.
Those numbers include the names of more than 150 former employees in Stephenson County that Taxpayers United of America say contributed less than 10 percent to their estimated lifetime pension payout.
Also highlighted was a Highland Community College retiree who had contributed more than $154,000 to a pension by the time he retired at age 55. The retiree receives more than $100,000 annually and could receive more than $3.3 million in estimated lifetime payout.
Highland spokesman Pete Willging said the college cannot discuss individual pensions, but the rules and laws behind pensions are not set locally.
“Pension numbers and the formulas that go into the retirement plans are established by the State Universities Retirement System and the laws overseeing it are set by the state,” Willging said.
Representatives from the State Universities Retirement System were not immediately available for comment.
McNeilly said the goal of Taxpayers United of America is to encourage pension reforms.