Sunday, May 21, 2017

Higher property taxes irk Boone County homeowners



Posted May 20, 2017 at 2:51 PM Updated May 20, 2017 at 2:51 PM

By Cathy Ward

Upset by hefty increases in your Boone County property taxes? Join the crowd, and count us in.

Our property taxes (the first half due June 1) are 9.7 percent higher than last year — well above the inflation rate of about 2 percent. Our tax bill this year is $4,577, up from $4,173 last year.

The big hike for us, and thousands more, was determined by our Belvidere Township assessors. Our tax bill stated that our home is worth almost $17,000 more than last year, up from $160,440 to $177,270. Really? In one year?

Belvidere Township Assessor Tami Torrance told me the increase was based on the fact that home values in our area are rising. She said her staff reviewed sales in our area for the past three years and determined this was a fair value.

Figures from the office of Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport showed 69 percent of Boone County homeowners had higher tax bills, some up as much as 17 percent. Of our county property owners, 31 percent had lower bills.

A 2017 report from, states that Boone County has one of the highest median property taxes in the U.S. We are ranked 113 of 3,143 as a percentage of our median income. That’s not where I want to rank.

What can we do now? Virtually nothing. If we launch a protest and pay late, a late fee will be tacked on. If we pay nothing for a couple years, we could lose our home.

Our tax bill shows we help support nine taxing bodies. The majority of our bill, $3,043, goes to the Belvidere School District. The others in the top three are $597 to Boone County and $292 to the Belvidere Park District.

Torrance and her staff said we should have looked closely at our assessment notice that came out in September. We had 30 days if we disagreed with the new assessment or it could not be changed, unless a substantial error had been made.

The same will be true next year. When we get our assessment notice, we can appeal. Last fall, about 500 property owners appealed their assessments. Dozens and dozens received decreases. Some, I’m told, do it every year. Might be something to strongly consider.

I also was told more than once by the Belvidere Townshhip assessor’s staff that we should have attended meetings of the taxing bodies and objected to their spending habits. The blame, it appears, rests with us. They also said state officials keep adding expenditures to our taxing bodies and not paying for them. As most of you know, the state of Illinois has not had a budget for nearly two years.

I also was told all taxpayers should be certain they are getting all the deductions allowed, such as senior citizen or homestead exemption. Also, I learned, that if local assessors don’t make necessary changes, the state will come in and add a multiplier to all taxpayers. Torrance said she and her staff try to be fair to all.

I wish I had a better feeling about what’s ahead. Torrance said she can’t promise that our tax bills will not be higher next year. “Lots of factors go into these assessments,” she said.

I do have one idea that would be helpful. My husband and I own property in Florida. When we get our assessment notice, the notice includes what our tax bill will be. That makes it easier for us to decide if we want to appeal our bill. Here, we do not know what our tax bill will be until the bill arrives.

Newport’s reports showed that the county this year will collect $96.6 million to serve our 53,000 residents. Amazing.

I would add, however, that we in Boone County should be most grateful to businesses like Chrysler and big land owners who pay what I consider high taxes. Newport’s report showed Chrysler’s bill this year is $1.4 million. Others in the top three are Wal-Mart, $425,684, and KB Farms, $355,487. For the record, the average tax on an acre of farmland rose 6.6 percent from $27.22 to $29.

I think it might be time to send our businesses a thank you note. Hate to think what our tax bills would be if they were not here.

Cathy Ward is a member of the Boone County Board.

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