Despite sluggish wage growth in the region, Metro East taxpayers paid an effective property tax rate nearly twice the national average in 2017.
St. Clair County homeowners paid an effective property tax rate of 2.40 percent, while Madison County taxpayers paid an effective rate of 2.05 percent. The national average was 1.17 percent for 2017, with Illinois far exceeding that with a statewide average of 2.22 percent, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company.
Both state and local leaders deserve part of the blame for the region’s intense property tax burden. In April 2017, the St. Clair County board hiked property taxes. And the city of Belleville increased its property tax levy 12 percent in December 2017, citing shortfalls in its police and fire pension funds.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have imposed costly mandates preventing local leaders from keeping spending under control, with inflated wages on public construction projects, costly pension benefits and overly generous bargaining powers for government worker unions all working to drive up costs.
High local property tax bills in Illinois are on top of tax hikes at the state level, which have been the result of persistent overspending. From 2005-2015 state spending grew nearly 45 percent faster than incomes in St. Clair County and 33 percent faster than incomes in Madison County.
If recent years are any indicator of how residents will react to the ever-increasing tax burden and lack of reforms, there will be fewer and fewer taxpayers from which local government can generate revenue.
From 2010-2017, more than 22,000 people on net left Madison and St. Clair counties combined. Through much of that time, Missouri – the closest state to which Metro East taxpayers could flee – benefitted. From 2006-2015, Illinois lost 20 people to Missouri per day. In 2017, Missouri had an effective property tax rate of 1.10 percent, just below the national average.
If state and local leaders want to see the Metro East grow – instead of shrink – they need to get serious about property tax and spending reforms. Handing taxpayers increasing and additional bills to compensate for politicians’ recklessness hasn’t worked for the Metro East, nor has it worked for the state as a whole.