Williamson County Board chairman opposes tax freeze, urges Rauner, Madigan to 'stop mandates' instead
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner are more worried about their public image than in freezing property taxes, which state legislators should oppose, Williamson County Board Chairman Ron Ellis said during a recent interview.
"Madigan and Rauner, they do agree," Ellis told the SE Illinois News. "One of the few things that they can agree on, they want to give this dog-and-pony show – and that's exactly what it is, a dog-and-pony show – that they care about the general public, that they are concerned about real estate taxes being so high."
Madigan and Rauner are not serious about reducing Illinoisans' real estate tax load, Ellis said. "If they're serious about cutting real estate taxes – this is what I told Rauner's inner circle – then stop the mandates,” he said.
“Get out of the mandate business, dictating what we have to do on the county level and the municipality level and give us a chance to cut real estate taxes. But they're not interested in that because all they want to do, they want a 15-second news spot that they can get on the 10 o'clock newscast. They're not serious about getting real."
Ellis said he surprises Springfield lawmakers when he tells them a property tax freezes proposed during the fall veto session would actually raise most real estate tax bills, which is why he has opposed those proposals. Ellis said lawmakers have asked him, "'Ellis, how can you be against freezing real estate taxes?'"
"Freezing real estate taxes is the same philosophy that Madigan and Rauner have for the school systems we have. Our school systems aren't funded properly and I find it interesting that the state of Illinois, outside of being able to dictate what is done with real estate taxes, they gave up the right of collecting real estate taxes in 1932. But they've maintained the power, the Legislature did, of controlling real estate taxes. When they gave up collecting real estate taxes and put it on the local municipalities or the local counties, and that's how you support your local school systems. That's the most inadequate way of funding them that you could (have)."
Ellis' comments came on the heels of a failed amendment to SB 851 that would have implemented a two-year property tax freeze for Cook and some collar counties, leaving other counties to decide whether to freeze property taxes through referendums. SB851 passed out of the House but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate before the veto session ended..
Ellis said he and others in Williamson County considered how a property tax freeze would affect residents. "Two-thirds of the people in Williamson County will see a tax increase," he said.
As an example, Ellis referred to Williamson County's largest property owner, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, which sits on land in Williamson and Washington counties. Under property freeze proposals out of Springfield, the power cooperative's real estate taxes in Williamson County would go up by $176,000.
In other examples, an 11-acre farmland parcel would see its Williamson County property taxes increase by 10 percent, from $100 to $111, while a home in the county with fair market value of more than $210,000 would also see their taxes go up, Ellis said. "The break-even point was $210,000," he said.
"So if you're under $210,000, you would see a tax savings. If you were greater than $210,000, you would pay more."
Ellis said he would urge lawmakers to oppose such a property tax freeze. "Vote no," he said.