Naperville legislators offer property tax advice
By Hank Beckman For The Sun March 2, 2013 3:51PM
Darlene Senger, candidate for state rep. 96th district Submitted 10/2008
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:07AM
Naperville area legislators met with members of the public recently to talk about a subject dear to homeowner’s hearts: property taxes.
State Reps. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville), Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) joined State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) in a two-hour forum that focused on how property taxes are calculated and what avenues for appeal are open to the private citizen.
“I personally have appealed my property taxes successfully twice,” Ives told about 20 citizens in the Wheaton Community Center.
Ives related that she appealed when she thought the addition she and her husband put on their Wheaton home was overvalued by the tax assessor.
She said she wanted to empower taxpayers and equip them with some of the same tools and attitude toward property taxes that were characteristic of large companies.
“The business community understands this (process of appeals),” she said.
Ives said that homeowners need to be vigilant about being assessed fairly. This is particularly important in light of the additional tax burden placed on residents when businesses successfully appeal their assessments or are given tax breaks to move to a community, she said.
Mark Decker, communications analyst for Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives, gave an overview of how taxes are calculated and what avenues of appeal are available.
He explained that each township assessor calculated the value of each parcel by using a three-year rolling average, which explained why homeowners whose property fell in value in recent years actually saw their tax bill increase.
“There’s a lag time,” he said.
Decker said there were four levels of appeal, beginning with the township assessor and continuing through the County Board of Review, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board and an administrative review in a county court.
With the property tax being the assessed valuation of a property minus the homeowner’s exemptions multiplied by the tax rate, Decker stressed the importance of the exemptions most common to the average homeowner, including those for seniors, the disabled and returning veterans.
DuPage County has 372 units of government, including 188 that are subject to the state’s tax cap, which limits the amount a taxing body can levy to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is lower. But even with the tax cap, property owners often experience increases in annual bills, even in a down economy.
One man in the audience pointed this out and said that he understood that the government needed a certain amount to operate, but wondered if a future improvement in the economy would give officials an excuse to raise property tax rates.
DuPage Deputy Clerk Paul Hinds noted that the real driver of the property tax levy was how much each taxing body asked for from the public.
“The only way (to lower levy) is if the taxing district asks for less money,” he said.
Connelly amplified Hinds’ remarks when he noted that voter turnout was typically lower for municipal elections than those involving statewide races or presidential elections.
“This is about the cost of government,” he said, noting that local elections were what determined local government employee’s salaries and whether or not a referendum cost the homeowner additional money on their taxes.
“You need to vote in April,” he said.
Ives agreed, saying that people needed to “get involved in what your taxing bodies levy.”
Residents seemed to come away pleased with the effort on the part of the legislators.
“Any time there is communication, it helps,” Bob Siebert said.
“I found it interesting and learned things I didn’t know,” David Rockwell said after the event.