Southern Illinois’ wide range of property taxes

Southern Illinois’ wide range of property taxes

Jackson County has the highest median property taxes among the southernmost counties in Illinois, and falls in the state’s top 50 counties for highest property taxes. Meanwhile, Hardin County residents pay the lowest median property taxes in the state.

When it comes to property taxes in southern Illinois, homeowners face a wide variety of rates. Though not as expensive as the record-high property tax rates in the greater Chicago area, property taxes are still a significant expense for many homeowners in southern Illinois.

Jackson County, home to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, has the highest property taxes among the southernmost counties in Illinois, with nearly $2,000 a year in annual median property taxes paid, according to data from the Tax Foundation. Statewide, Jackson County is in the top 50 for median property taxes paid, ranking 47 out of Illinois’ 102 counties.

However, southern Illinois is also home to the state’s lowest property taxes. Hardin County ranks last in the amount of annual median property taxes paid, at $580.

southern illinois property taxes

A statewide property tax freeze would alleviate pressure on homeowners in Jackson County and other areas where property taxes are high. And polling suggests that Illinoisans largely agree that property taxes are too costly. A poll commissioned by the Illinois Policy Institute and conducted in February and March by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates shows that 70 percent of Illinoisans surveyed think property taxes are too high. This should come as no surprise: Illinois has some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and those taxes are driving people across the state to leave.

A statewide freeze would also help mitigate the out-migration crisis in southern Illinois and across the state. From July 2015 to July 2016, 89 of Illinois’ 102 counties saw their populations shrink, including 15 of southern Illinois’ 17 counties. This population loss is a symptom of Illinois’ high-tax environment and lack of opportunity.

Cost drivers behind Illinois’ high property taxes

One of the chief drivers of property taxes is the amount of local government in Illinois. Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government across the state – the most in the entire country and more than Wisconsin and Indiana combined. This high number of local governments drives up costs and is one of the main reasons property taxes are so high.

Unfortunately, consolidating government entities in Illinois can be more difficult than amending the Illinois Constitution. The fact that Springfield pumps hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxpayer dollars to local government also helps inflate the local spending that keeps property taxes high. One of the sources fueling the overspending at the local level is the Local Government Distributive Fund, or LGDF. This fund takes state dollars and gives them to local governments, based not on need, but on a pro rata share of the state’s population. And while using state money to fund local projects may sound like a good deal for local residents, that’s not the case. Once LGDF funds an expansion of local government, it is local residents and homeowners who are on the hook for further costs for items initially paid for by LGDF, including additional employee and pension costs.

Despite the fact that the LGDF increases spending that drives up property taxes, state representatives passed House Bill 278, a measure that proposes to increase the percentage of net state individual and corporate income tax revenue that would go into the LGDF. HB 278 appears to have stalled in the Illinois Senate. However, if enacted, the bill would transfer even more state tax money to local governments to spend, ultimately contributing to higher costs for local homeowners.

Lawmakers should look for real solutions to Illinois’ problems. A statewide property tax freeze and legislation easing the requirements for local government consolidation would be a good start.

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