Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, August 19, 2019

Madison County Board votes to have townships pay assessment costs

Their View

By Brendan Bakala, Illinois Policy Institute | Jan 31, 2018


The Madison County Board voted Jan. 17 to allow the county to bill townships for the entire cost of services provided to local township tax assessors, which may drive up costs for some of Madison County’s two dozen townships. Assessments are used to calculate property taxes.

Previously, townships in Madison County only had to bear part of the cost of assessment services provided by the county. However, those costs have become more of a concern as the dissolution of some of Madison County’s townships is now under consideration, according to the Telegraph.

The Telegraph referenced potential consolidation plans by Alton and Godfrey townships. Madison County Board Member Phil Chapman, R-Highland, noted the dissolution of Alton township could mean an estimated $500,000 in assessment costs for county taxpayers, according to the Telegraph.

This is not to say that township consolidation isn’t the right choice for local taxpayers in Alton or Godfrey. Townships are an antiquated layer of government that often provide services that would be more efficiently carried out at the county level, for example.

Ultimately, the tension between Madison County and its townships is indicative of a far larger problem in Illinois: high property taxes.

Illinois’ high property taxes are causing pain across the Land of Lincoln, including Madison County. In Alton, Illinois, an estimated 20 percent of homeowners are seriously underwater on their mortgages – meaning the homeowner owes at least 25 percent more than the property is worth. All told, an estimated 1 in 6 Illinois homeowners are seriously underwater on their mortgages.

Despite this alarming fact, local governments across Illinois have not reformed their spending habits. But even reform-minded local leaders are severely limited in what they can do, thanks to state laws that dictate many aspects of how a local government is run. Unfunded mandates, costly pensions, the highest number of local governments in the country and unfair collective bargaining powers for government worker unions have driven up Illinois property taxes for decades.

Madison County is no exception. A 2015 Illinois Policy Institute study found that between 2000 and an average of years 2009-2013, the average residential property tax burden for Madison County grew by more than 35 percent.

And these massive costs are gobbling up Illinoisans’ income.

From 2008-2015, average Illinois household income only grew 7 percent, but average property taxes paid in Illinois increased by nearly 48 percent. The real property tax burden is the percentage of income Illinoisans pay in property taxes. In 2015, Illinoisans’ average household income didn’t grow, but the real property tax burden increased 17 percent from 2014 to 2015.

As if all of this did not already burden struggling residents, the General Assembly in 2017 passed a 32 percent income tax hike, the largest permanent income tax increase in Illinois history, further consuming more of Illinoisans’ hard-earned income.

Taxpayers in Madison County and the state as a whole are tapped out and need real relief, as well as the tools to fight future property tax hikes.

Passing a real property tax freeze that requires voter approval for property tax hikes, and reining in local government cost drivers, such as pensions, are two powerful reforms that would go a long way for families struggling to pay higher property taxes as their own incomes stagnate.

Until the General Assembly takes action on these reforms and others, Madison County taxpayers will pay more.

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Illinois Policy Institute Madison County

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