Already among the nation’s highest, DuPage property tax rates to increase this year

Already among the nation’s highest, DuPage property tax rates to increase this year

With hundreds of taxing bodies in their county and inaction from Springfield, DuPage homeowners will soon see yet another property tax increase.

Illinoisans are struggling with the highest property taxes in the nation, and it’s about to get even tougher for homeowners in the state’s second largest county.

DuPage County property owners are going to pay an average 1.76 percent more on their tax bills this year, in a county with some of the highest property tax rates in the state, according to the Daily Herald.

This won’t be a welcome sight, as DuPage County taxpayers have already been voting with their feet. Between July 2015  ̶ July 2016, DuPage lost more than 9,000 residents in migration to other states. And taxpayers have been explicit in their reasoning. A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll released in October 2016 revealed that taxes were the top reason Illinoisans wanted to flee the state.

DuPage taxpayers in particular sent another message to county government in November 2016 when they voted in favor of government consolidation on a nonbinding ballot question. DuPage County residents’ property tax bills are driven up in part because the county is home to 379 tax districts – a problem not uncommon in a state with nearly 7,000 units of local government, the most of any state in the country.

To its credit, DuPage has made efforts to consolidate. In 2012, DuPage started its Accountability Consolidation Transparency Initiative, or ACT Initiative, to promote consolidating government entities within the county, a model the rest of the state could follow. But consolidation efforts at the state level have been slower. Bipartisan legislation did pass the House 93-19 last year to allow for greater local government consolidation, but was not moved in the Senate before the session ended. The bill, now House Bill 3135, was reintroduced for the new General Assembly, though.

And lawmakers in Springfield haven’t moved toward a true, permanent property tax freeze for the entire state. The House passed a property tax freeze bill in April 2016, but it did not apply to home-rule governments, which account for 7.8 million Illinoisans, or more than 60 percent of taxpayers. The Senate’s current “grand bargain” negotiations include a two-year property tax freeze, but the plan would do nothing to stem the things that drive up local costs, such as collective bargaining and unfunded state mandates. That temporary property tax freeze is also attached to a permanent income tax increase, an unacceptable deal given that Illinoisans face the highest overall tax burden in the country.

If none of these reforms – like a true property tax freeze and local government consolidation – are enacted, rising property taxes like that in DuPage County will continue to be commonplace, and more taxpayers may head for the borders. Lawmakers in Springfield and local officials should work quickly to provide relief to struggling homeowners.

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