By KEVIN P. CRAVER – Northwest Herald
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of our series Property Taxes: Follow the Money. For Illinoisans, property taxes are a sore spot. Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the nation, and McHenry County is in the top 10 for the highest property taxes in the state. Illinois also ranks first in the country with nearly 7,000 taxing districts, which makes examining one’s tax bill a confusing exercise. While taxpayers are annoyed by the price tag, property taxes are also a primary source of revenue for local taxing bodies. This series examines some of the issues in Illinois for residents and taxing bodies...
Property taxes drove Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Driscoll out of McHenry County and will drive him out of Illinois altogether and into Texas when he retires at the end of the year.
The property tax bill on his home in Lake in the Hills was $8,000 when he sold it – today the bill is now more than $10,000. Driscoll moved to a townhome in Lakewood, but moved again when his property tax bill hit $4,400.
Driscoll doesn’t need official numbers to tell him he is far from alone in his decision to leave.
“When I went to the [police] pension board, I ran into at least six other people who are leaving the state. They just can’t put up with the taxes, the cost of living and the mismanagement,” Driscoll said – and Illinois does not tax pensions and retirement income.
Brian Smith of Huntley also is counting down the days, albeit more of them, before he leaves McHenry County for Texas.
Smith, a sales manager, pays $8,000 a year in property taxes for a 3,400-square-foot home on a quarter acre. The assessment letter he got in November from Grafton Township increased his property’s value by 22 percent. Once his son graduates next spring from Marian Central Catholic High School, the family is leaving the state.
“They’re saying my house is worth $309,000, and at least a third of our subdivision has recently turned over with short sales and foreclosures. If the township would like to buy my house for $309,000, I’d gladly sell it to them today,” Smith said.
Driscoll’s and Smith’s stories are only two of many.
From official government analyses to annual reports of truck rentals by moving companies, Illinois consistently is at or near the top for people leaving for other states, and taking their incomes, their intellectual capital and their businesses with them. While winter weather may be an easy scapegoat, a study earlier this year revealed most people leaving Illinois are settling in neighboring states.