Home value down, property taxes up, residents want answers

Residents in the Rutland Township portion of Sun City saw substantial increases in their tax bills this year, with some increasing as much as 20 percent. The residents of Rutland Township are now seeking the answer to why their taxes were increased so dramatically this year.

Mark Altmayer, Chief Financial Officer of School District 158, has fielded several phone calls from residents of Rutland Township asking about the tax increase. He explained that three factors go into the tax increase in their township.

Altmayer admitted that D-158 is part of the first factor, as the District requested a levy this year that was 2.7 percent higher than last year.

The district, along with other taxing bodies, must follow the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, which limits increases in tax levies to either 5 percent or the increase in the consumer price index of the following year – whichever is lower.

“This past year it’s at 2.7 percent, so that’s all I could ask for,” Altmayer said. “So I am a part of that increase, but I’m a very small part.”

The second reason – which Altmayer called the biggest – is that the taxes are based on assessed value. The reason Grafton and Rutland township homes in Sun City pay different taxes is the methods used by their township assessors are different.

Grafton Township valued homes this year based on the current market price, which led to drops in value as high as 20 to 30 percent. This then led to lowered property taxes in those homes’ bills.

Rutland Township assessed homes based on their three-year average, a more common practice in Illinois, according to Altmayer.

The reduction based on the three-year average, however, did not lower home values as much as the current market price did. Therefore, residents in Rutland were left paying higher taxes based on their higher-valued homes.

“When your EAV [Equalized Assessed Value] only went down a little bit, somebody else has to pick up that $1,000 that they [Grafton Township] didn’t pay,” Altmayer said. “Somebody’s got to pick up that slack.”

The third reason, Altmayer mentioned, is the property tax bill in Kane County is “wrong.” The Kane County bill is based on estimated EAV numbers from McHenry County that came before the state multiplier, a figure that works to equalize values between counties.

“Kane County sent out your tax bills not early – they sent them out on time – but they sent them out with estimated EAV numbers from McHenry County before the state multiplier was out, and because they sent out those property tax bills early, your tax rate – what you’re paying for instance, the village to the district – is higher than it should be,” Altmayer said. “And so let me give you an example: on the Kane County tax bill, the district tax rate is $4.95 combined. On the McHenry County tax bill, for the school district combined, it’s $4.81. So it’s about 2.9 percent or 14 cents higher than it should be. And Kane County hasn’t told you that, did they? No, they didn’t tell me that. Well, of course, they’re not going to tell you that, but you need to know that because next year they are going to adjust your tax bill. I don’t know if it’s an adjustment or a credit, but they’re going to correct that on next year’s tax bill.”

Some residents, like Betsy Nicosia, N. 26, and her husband will pay $11,408 in property taxes this year. This total is up from the $10,013 they paid last year.

Nicosia said she has no problem paying taxes to D-158 but is extremely unhappy with the size and timing of the tax increase.

“This should never happen again. Never,” she said. “Not in these economic conditions. If we were all working and it was all beautiful and gas was three dollars a gallon and everything was fine, then it’s another issue; although I would never want to see an increase like this in one year.”

After seeing her tax bill, Nicosia called Kane County to see if the Property Tax Extention Limitation Law was still in effect. She believes the heightened tax levies are a measure used by taxing bodies who are afraid they will not get enough money from the state.

No matter the cause, the issue remains a complicated one. Ron Ghilardi, N.33, is trying to make sense of it all. As a part of the Property Tax Analysis Group, he will compile data from tax bills of Sun City residents in Grafton, Rutland, and Hampshire Townships to examine the differences of property taxes in matching homes in the two townships.

Ghilardi’s estimate is that the data will be compiled by sometime this week. P-TAG is also organizing a presentation on property taxes sponsored by the Sun City Volunteer Civics Community at 9 a.m. June 18 in Drendel Hall.

The meeting will focus on what raised the property taxes and possible next steps. Ghilardi hopes to have township assessors, members of the school board, and possibly a state senator in attendance.

Altmayer said he and other representatives of District 158 plan to attend.

“We want to be there because we’re concerned, because we are a big number on the tax bill, and we certainly want to make sure that people get all of the information, and they get all the correct information,” he said.

Nicosia plans on attending and hopes to hear answers.

“I want to find out at this forum how it happened,” she said, “and how it can be prevented from happening again.”

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