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Monday, October 14, 2019

County board candidate says voters in west Belleville district are fed up with high property taxes


By Ann Maher | Oct 12, 2018

If there's one concern common among voters in St. Clair County Board District 8 it's high property taxes, according to Republican candidate Deborah Brennan.

"It's the single issue that motivated me to run," said the first time candidate for public office.

Having knocked on hundreds of doors in her west Belleville district - which encompasses both sides of West Main to 161 from 157 to the Belt Line - Brennan said that no matter who she talks to, the topic "is always property taxes."

In her particular situation, Brennan was especially pained this year when she had to write a check for nearly $13,000 to pay taxes on the home she and husband, attorney Ryan Brennan, own on Oak Knoll. In four years, the tax bill for the property has increased by 30 percent. In 2015, the bill was $9,769.

The Brennans purchased the home in 2016 for $350,000, online records indicate; the tax bill they paid this year represents almost 4 percent of the home's value.

One of her potential constituents, Tom Desmond, echoed frustration with property taxes and the direction they're going in.

Desmond lives on Wesley Drive in Belleville, and said that while the amount of his tax bill paid this year, $4,057, is not crushing his family, they can't justify upgrading into a bigger home "because real estate taxes are so out of control."

In the last four years, property taxes on Desmond's home have increased by almost 25 percent.

He said he bought the home he was born and raised in six years ago and would like to move out and up, but moving into a bigger home in St. Clair County "doesn't make financial sense."

"If you're going to buy a house in St. Clair County the first question you ask is 'what are the real estate taxes,' not 'how much does the house cost,'" he said. "Real estate taxes are out of control."

Desmond works in medical sales in St. Louis, and the people he works with "constantly ask why I still live in Illinois," he said. "We have these conversations all the time." Desmond said his family is staying put for now at least until his children are out of grade school.

"My children are in Catholic school and we really like it there," he said.

Brennan, who serves at office manager at the Brennan Law Firm in Swansea, seeks to unseat incumbent Democrat Kenneth Easterley who was first elected to District 8 in 2004. In his most recent election in 2016, Easterley faced no opposition on the ballot.

Brennan takes issue with a vote Easterley took last month, being one of 24 Democrat board members who voted to approve a 5 percent increase to the county's property tax levy for 2019. Five Republican board members voted against the increase that will raise the levy from $68 million to $71.5 million, according to the Illinois Policy Institute

A study by the Institute shows that per capita, property taxes in St. Clair County, adjusted for inflation, have nearly doubled since 1996.

"It’s not uncommon for home values to increase in tandem with local property taxes, provided that taxing bodies invest revenues in essential government services," wrote Vincent Caruso of the Illinois Policy Institute. "This, however, is not the case in St. Clair County, where property taxes have grown more than 200 percent faster than median home values – a rise driven primarily by growing pension costs."

For Brennan, stemming the tide on property taxes is her primary objective in getting elected, but she also seeks to reduce unnecessary levels of government, as in consolidating school districts.

"I've received so much positive feedback, and I knock on doors pretty much every day," she stated recently on a Facebook post. "People are very receptive to talking to me, and often tell me they appreciate the fact that I’m out meeting voters. Usually, people just won’t answer their door if they don’t want to be bothered."

She said the issue of resolving high taxation should not fall on party lines.

"People are sick and tired of being taxed to death," she said. "Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, it’s time to vote out the politicians who support these tax increases."

From the Illinois Policy Institute: .

St. Clair County property taxes per person have nearly doubled since 1996

Property taxes have grown 214 percent faster than home values

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Illinois Policy Institute St. Clair County Board

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