Local advocate for property tax reform faces dangerous backlash
Local barber Bob Anderson has endured two attempts at intimidation since being elected to the McHenry Township Board on a platform of consolidation.
On Oct. 20, Bob Anderson found nails behind the tires of his car at his longtime home in Wonder Lake, Illinois. The Wonder Lake barber, who also serves as a McHenry Township trustee, experienced a similar incident in April, when nails were placed in the parking area of the barbershop he’s owned and run since 1962.
As a McHenry Township trustee, Anderson says he expects people to disagree with his views on consolidating the township. But as a citizen, the situation has made him anxious.
“It’s more unnerving to have those nails thrown behind my car at home right next to my wife’s car,” Anderson said. “I think it’s pretty cowardly that somebody does not agree with my position that they at least can’t come and talk to [me] about it, but nonetheless that’s the way things are.”
Since moving to the small community just north of McHenry 55 years ago, Anderson has been active in local government in addition to voicing his desire to abolish townships and lower taxes for his fellow citizens of McHenry County. McHenry County residents currently pay the fourth highest property taxes in the state, with an average home paying nearly $6,000 per year. Across the state, Illinoisans pay around 2.67 percent of the value of their property in taxes, according to an April 2016 CoreLogic real estate study.
In a state with nearly 7,000 units of government, McHenry County has one of the highest number of townships with 17. Anderson ran for a spot as a trustee in April on the platform of lowering that number in order to reduce taxes that are contributing to Illinois’ severe out-migration crisis. The community responded – Anderson secured the highest vote total of any trustee candidate.
“What’s so right about this time is the advantage of change makers,” he said. “People are so fed up with their property taxes and the tax system in general and the state that every five minutes has people leaving.”
While his end goal may take time, his plan involves bringing awareness to the township and government spending and actions. Specifically, at the monthly McHenry Township board of trustees meeting Nov. 9, Anderson had three items on the agenda.
The first involved Illinois House Bill 607, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018, and allows townships to place a motion on voting ballots asking if citizens are in favor of abolishing the road district within their local township or not.
The second was to rescind the dues paid to the Township Officials of Illinois, or TOI, an organization representing 10,000 township officials across the state.
“Taxpayers’ hard earned money is being spent on a lobbyist group to protect township government,” Anderson said. “Taxpayers have no idea that they’re spending [on TOI].”
The final motion he offered was to lower the salaries of local government officials. While, if passed soon, this wouldn’t take effect until 2021, Anderson said presenting the motion now and starting a discussion is why he ran for a seat on the board.
The motion involving HB 607 can’t be voted on until it takes effect in 2018. The TOI motion will be discussed early next year, as well. But Anderson considered the meeting a success since the topics will be brought up again soon. Transparency is what he hopes for.
Anderson has nothing to say to the people who put nails behind his tires.
And, once a month, he sits in front of his fellow townspeople and allows some of them to criticize his actions to his face. He believes critics have the right to peacefully voice their opinions.
But so does he.
“As long as I’m not under township official business,” he said, “I’m a citizen.”