Voters need to understand impact of a property tax freeze, Bellwood chief of staff says
Peter Tsiolis says Bellwood voters need to truly understand what a property tax freeze could mean to their community.
“By freezing this source, you hamstring their ability to provide for future salary increases, infrastructure projects, emergency repairs, health care cost increases and pension contribution escalations,” Tsiolis, the village's chief of staff, told the West Cook News. “For towns that can barely balance their budgets, the elimination of their ability to raise taxes can prove devastating.”
During the fall veto session, lawmakers discussed Senate Bill 851, which would establish a two-year property tax freeze for Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will counties. The measure would allow those counties to increase property taxes only with voter approval.
All other counties would be subject to referendums asking whether a property tax freeze should be imposed for 2018 and 2019 or that all governments within a county jurisdiction be subject to a property tax freeze over that period and to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for levy year 2020 and the foreseeable future.
Bryan Smith, the executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois, had sent a legislative alert to township officials about SB851, asking them to urge their state lawmakers to oppose the measure.
The legislation was not brought up for a vote in the Senate before the veto session ended..
“Municipalities will need to raise taxes in the coming years and a freeze will not be possible in practical terms,” Tsiolis said. “The runaway spending in the past decade coupled with increasing health care costs and pensions will make it impossible to institute a freeze, even if you exclude debt service payment from the equation.”
Tsiolis said voters also need to become a bigger part of the process and more vocal in expressing what they want and need for their community.
“Voters need to be more involved and engaged in general,” he said. “They need to understand what a freeze really may mean to their specific town. You may be living in a city for which a freeze will mean less police on the streets. Or the resurfacing project will be delayed for years. While a freeze sounds great it often comes with consequences. Know what those are before you just say, ‘yes it’s a great idea.’”
In the end, Tsiolis said there needs to be a comprehensive approach between lawmakers and town leaders to deal with the matter because the consequences can be profound and lasting.
“Not having a real understanding of what a freeze will mean to the towns they represent is foolish,” he said of lawmakers. “They need to not only listen, but also work with them to tier a property tax increase system that will address the concerns and problems of (1) a community that hasn’t raised taxes in 20 years but will need to as well as (2) the village that views tax increases as a blank check.”