If Senator Michael Connelly, elected Republican from Naperville, and Dan McConchie, elected Republican from Hawthorn Woods, have their way, the Senate Bill 2670 would be amended to permit voters in select counties to pass lower property tax levies. This would be applicable only to those counties which operate under Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). The latter was passed in 1990.
PTELL and lowering tax rates
The PTELL restricts the amount of additional money the taxing bodies could levy every year to the inflation rate or five percent, whichever is lower. This was present prior to PTELL being applicable. Voters surrendered this ability when they accepted PTELL. The bill tabled by McConchie will bring back that ability.
The process of lowering property taxes is not easy. A petitioner wishing to do the same must gather a minimum of 10 percent of cast votes in the previous gubernatorial election which took place in that taxing district. This proposition simply needs a majority to get passed. To change the constitution of the state, the number of signatures must be eight percent or more. According to McConchie, the percentage is higher in his bill so that it cannot be misused.
Flawed tax system
McConchie admitted that his bill will not solve what is popularly known as the flawed system of property tax in Illinois. However, he pointed out, it will offer voters a tool to get a grip on the local taxing bodies so that they remain accountable to the public. The tax imposed on properties in collar counties are much more compared to the remaining areas of the state. To give an example, there has a been a whopping property tax increase in Will, DuPage, and McHenry counties since 1990. All these counties are under PTELL. Downstate PTELL counties have seen a 259.79 increase in the property taxes from 1990.
To compare, counties not under PTELL have witnessed a 221.63 property tax increase over an identical time period. Cook County, an exceptional county, has seen an increase of only 161.47 percent in property taxes, from 1990. Among a total of 102 counties, 39 are under PTELL.
Non-PTELL county voters have the power to increase or decrease their property taxes through a referendum. Brad Cole, the Executive Director of Illinois Municipal League, voiced a few concerns about the bill. He opined that decisions must be taken locally. He said that local elected bodies like the village board of trustees or city council could take such decisions.