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April 12, 2024

Independence Day?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On July 4, 2017

Illinois (ECWd)

As we celebrated Independence Day, one must ask, what defines Independence?

As the social media frenzy over the Illinois income tax hike and pork spending to special districts dominates the blogosphere, may we suggest some perspective?

As a close friend of mine says routinely, Illinois is at the bottom of every list it should be at the top, and at the top of every list it should be at the bottom.

Why is that?

It’s fashionable to rant and rave over an income tax hike as most people who bring home a paycheck every week will see that money taken from them and squandered by political elites for pet projects and future elections.

I too am outraged with this group of clowns we have in Springfield, (few exceptions), but my amazement is for those never talked about tax hikes we are getting every year, year after year.  We all get them and other than a few moans and groans over school taxes constantly going up or property taxes being unfairly increased and home values assessments off the charts from reality, we hear nothing from the people on those taxes hidden in plain site that will never stop climbing, by design, every year!


Because you don’t see them come directly out of your paycheck every week, and no, I am not talking about all the consumer taxes we pay every time we buy things.  I am talking about the taxes that are levied by every public body in this state and they all have the same justification for raising your tax’s.

“It’s only a few bucks”. “A couple dollars won’t break you”. “You can afford it, besides, it’s for the children”. 

Every year we find the vast majority of the public bodies in this state raise their tax levy no less than 5% without batting an eye, with a few PTELL counties as exceptions to the norm.  The law gives those public officials the power to do that at a regular meeting without any public hearing.  Most increase it because their attorney told them they need to, or they themselves justify it because it’s only a little bit so they don’t think it will impact anyone and besides, they need more money.

All by design!

Living in a small farm community of 1003 people let me put this in perspective. We 8 have public bodies either in or represented in our Township and they control their tax levy.

  1. School District
  2. Fire Department
  3. Village
  4. Township Board
  5. Multi-Township Board
  6. Library Board
  7. Drainage Districts
  8. Community College

Never mind that we don’t need 8 separate public bodies to represent 1003 people.  We will save that article for another day.

Of those eight public bodies, #4 and #5 have not raised their tax levy in at least 7 years and in the case of #5, that levy has been reduced as much as 30% and has more room to go. The remaining, account for the following levies of which I believe each and every one of them has gone up every year, for several consecutive years, with known exceptions explained below.

  1. School District tax levy
  2. Community College tax levy
  3. Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund tax levy
  4. Village tax levy
  5. Fire Protection District tax levy
  6. Ambulance tax levy
  7. Rescue tax levy
  8. Township tax levy
  9. Cemetery tax levy
  10. Multi-Township tax levy
  11. Library Tax levy
  12. General Assistance tax levy
  13. Road and Bridge tax levy
  14. Drainage District tax levy

As the former Township Supervisor, I was proud to be part of a board that froze or reduced tax levies for items 8-10 and actually eliminated tax levy #12.  Those efforts were reflective of what a good board can do when they have the taxpayers best interest at heart.  It should be noted that even with multi-year freezes, reductions, and elimination of a tax levy, no services suffered.  How many can say the same for their community?  I doubt many.  In fact, I suspect most have more levies than what I listed.

Let that sink in. 

What if each one of those listed levies increase their tax levy 5% every year, just because the law allows it.  In 10 years your taxes increased over 50% from the first year.   Year after year we just pay our property tax bill with little fanfare and never pay attention to what caused that amount to actually get where it’s at.

Let the state slap us with a 32% income tax increase., and you would think everyone woke up and had a V-8.  Where is that same outrage over each public body raising your taxes every year, year after year?

It’s time to wake up people and realize the vast majority of elected officials have no problem raising your taxes as they will justify it every time because it’s not their money and you’re not there to watch them. Only when we elect people that have the conviction to protect the taxpayers’ will this state ever begin to heal and I suspect even then, we must get involved at the local level and start asking the tough questions about our tax dollars.

Illinois is in the mess it’s in because the local governments that grew our political elites were raised to know one thing, if you need more money, just tax the people as they never notice it.  How do they know that?  Because the vast majority of the people in this state of no clue what civic duty is.  We don’t know because very few schools teach it anymore.  Not to mention we are too busy trying to make a living because of all the taxes we have to pay.

Who has time to attend a meeting?

What was the last public board meeting you went to?  What was the last vote on your local tax levy for your library, school, fire department or village?  How many have ever actually read a copy of the budget for you community’s public bodies?  Or better yet, how many have read an audit of your local government’s books?

Engagement at the local level is the only hope we have in ensuring our communities survive.  Although I am just as outraged as everyone else over this tax increase, I am more outraged at how disconnected We The People have become when it comes to running our own local government, the one we have the most control over!

You see, We The People have allowed ourselves to be at the bottom when the fact of the matter is, this Republic earned its Independence because of those who understood the people are to remain at the top, in charge! By doing that, their Independence is protected.  Fail to stay in charge and you lose your Independence!

Are you willing to step up and rise to the top and hold your local government accountable or will you just throw in the towel and accept defeat?
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  • Deborah
    Posted at 05:06h, 05 July

    True, true and true. For a lot of people, it is that they are not comfortable speaking in a “public” forum to tell officials what they think. I spoke in front of groups of people for a living so it is no big thing for me today but I remember my first “speech” class in college and remember thinking I was going to puke. It isn’t easy that first time. Then add other factors like public bodies who employ all manner of disrespectful or outright oppressive tactics to those who dare to speak during public comment and it is easy to understand why folks don’t get more involved. Still, we need to press through those challenges in order to address the very issues you bring to light in this post. The ideas you put forth here are a real wake up call even for me as most of my public participation has been laser focussed on specific areas of corruption so when you have egregious acts like that consuming all of your attention, it is easy to overlook these very important facts you put forth, but you made me consider the math and I realize that these more mundane items may very well be causing the disappearance of even more dollars all in a technically lawful manner, but still due to a failure on the part of fiduciaries.

  • jlyonslotus
    Posted at 06:12h, 05 July

    On the local level in Illinois, there’s a race between transparency and piracy — and transparency will win. I’m impressed by the Facebook Live meeting coverage we’ve had in suburban Cook. It made a difference in at least one high school district with a $90 million/year budget — a completely new board was elected over four years.

  • Warren J. Le Fever
    Posted at 10:12h, 05 July

    Excellent article. Will share. The ultimate cost of lazy noninvolvement is a personal income reduction of disposable income after all taxes.

  • Mike D.
    Posted at 12:39h, 05 July

    15 Republicans, most of whom ran in 2016 on a platform of, “no new taxes,” abandoned their commitment as well as the core belief of their party. All 15 should resign immediately or move across the isle so they can fellowship with Madigan. After all, there were earmarks for votes and
    that translates into pay-for-play for some of the yes votes provided by the “15.” We are not free nor independent. The good people of Illinois are now indentured taxpayers at a high rate – forever. I was a Republican, but no more.

  • Gerry C.
    Posted at 12:53h, 05 July

    Like comments from Mike D. But he forgot Senator Dale Righter another Republican defector.
    He also needs to quit or move over and sit with his friends on the left since it appears he was awarded earmarks in the budget for his vote on mega tax increase. I wish someone would list all Republicans that voted for tax increase in the House. Oh, by the way, Righters vote was the one
    vote needed to sustain the Governor’s veto. Hope you feel good Senator Righter.