An Illinois County Clerk Unilaterally Levies Millions Of Dollars In Extra Property Taxes
Adam Andrzejewski from Forbes
I cover the “daily greed” of national, state, and local politics.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The people are already paying enough tax to cover real needs – just not enough to feed the daily greed of government.
In one of America’s most wealthy counties, DuPage County Clerk Paul Hinds is levying an extra 1% property tax for “loss” related to delinquent real estate taxes – potentially $65 million over ten years. But, county records show very few losses.
In 2013, the Hinsdale High School District 86 school board led by Ed Corcoran and Claudia Manley campaigned on a property tax freeze, won the election, and kept their promise by passing the tax freeze. This action was taken after a full vetting by all stakeholders: public comment sessions, truth in taxation meetings and many newspapers editorials.
But, property taxes at the Hinsdale school district continued to rise anyway — by $746,773. How could this happen? Unbeknownst to most people, some county clerks – like in DuPage County, Illinois — are unilaterally adding a “loss” tax across the entire levy, a tax to supposedly make up for delinquent payments.
Our research found that it’s completely unnecessary, and results in an undue-burden on taxpayers.
According to county financial statements, 99.8% of all property taxes were collected last year. Delinquent taxpayers face the sheriff on property sales to collect unpaid taxes – in the same property tax year.
But, despite the excellent payment record of the DuPage taxpayers, last year, Clerk Hinds levied an extra $6.543 million to cover “losses.” Hinds confirmed this fact with a series of special reports generated in response to our inquires. Over a ten-year period, this extra 1% tax really adds up — potentially to $65 million or more.
In wealthy DuPage County, Illinois, property taxes feel more and more like a rental payment. In fact, nearly 10,000 families were delinquent on their real estate taxes last year and faced a sheriff’s sale of their property. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
With minimal “losses,” local governments are receiving more taxes than mandated. According to tax records provided by Hinsdale D86 Chief Financial Officer William Egan, the district received $238,235 more than requested by their “final levy” in 2013. The board tried to stop the clerk in 2014 and passed a “zero-percent loss tax” resolution. But to no avail – Hinds refused to comply resulting in approximately $140,000 in over-tax collection. The Cook County Clerk rightly complied, zeroed-out their portion, and saved taxpayers thousands of dollars (the district resides in both counties).
It’s a sad day when Cook County complies with the law and DuPage County flaunts a lawful resolution.
This over-taxation happens to every district wanting to freeze or cut property taxes. It’s a text-book example of taxation without representation: No citizen voted up or down, or was afforded a public comment to challenge this tax. Hardly anyone even knows what’s going on…
Last year, at the College of DuPage, the second largest college in Illinois, trustees voted to “freeze” property taxes. But, unbeknownst to the board Chairwoman, tax bills actually rose by $910,767 — because of the clerk’s extra 1% ”loss” tax. Recently the colleges “Clean Slate” board majority announced a 5% real estate tax cut. But Hind’s 1% levy hike at the clerk’s office will quietly eliminate 20% of the tax savings.
What if every one of the 381 units of government in DuPage County followed the lead of COD and cut their property tax levies by 5%? Not so fast. The 1% ”loss” tax (to cover “losses” where there are very few losses) would add back up to $26 million ($2.6 billion in levied property taxes times 1%).
Here’s the message Clerk Hinds and our other elected officials need to hear from constituents: “We’re spent.” DuPage County families have paid far too high of a “corruption tax” in waste, duplication of services and taxpayer abuse over the years. We deserve a real break.
There are countless examples showing lack of local government budget discipline – driving your tax bill higher. Here are a few our organization at OpenTheBooks.com discovered:
$3.4 billion in long-term debt has been racked up by 381 units of local government within DuPage County. It’s a staggering average of $13,200 per family of four.
$2.1 million in salary flows to the top ten highly compensated DuPage County employees.
Nearly 10,000 DuPage County families faced the county sheriff’s real estate auction after being late on their high property tax bills.
Over the last ten years, property values decreased while property taxes increased. That wasn’t fair to the business community or homeowners. Now, our property tax bill feels more and more like a monthly rental payment.
Elected officials like Hinsdale D86 board members Ed Corcoran and Claudia Manley, and the College of DuPage “Clean Slate” trustees took action. They understand that the moment is right to slap a hard cap on — or even cut — property taxes.
In DuPage County and across Illinois, the people are already paying enough tax to cover real needs – just not enough to feed the daily greed of government.
See the sources below.
FY2014 DuPage Clerk report showing the actual final, extended levies with 1% ”loss tax” for 381 units of government:
FY2014 DuPage Clerk report showing the actual final, extended levies with 1% ”loss tax” for 381 units of go…
FY2014 DuPage Clerk report modeling a “zero-percent loss tax” extended levy for 381 units of government:
FY2014 DuPage Clerk report modeling a "zero-percent loss tax" extended levy for 381 units of gove…
Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of OpenTheBooks.com – the world’s largest private repository of public spending.