By Carol Ostrow

Algonquin Township residents can add another item to their seasonal to-do lists — filing property tax assessment appeals by Dec. 23 — unless state Rep.-elect Allen Skillicorn’s (R-Crystal Lake) initial steps to extend that deadline takes root quickly...

Recently elected to represent the 66th state House District, Skillicorn isn’t waiting until his scheduled January swearing-in ceremony to make a difference. With McHenry County and Algonquin Township property taxes among the highest in the nation, the current East Dundee trustee — who plans to relinquish that position come January — wasted no time in implementing steps to change the scenario for northern Illinois home and business property owners.

Skillicorn’s first step was to introduce a pair of proposals. The first would mandate that municipalities hold public hearings before raising property taxes, while the second request an extension of the deadline to file appeals an extra 30 days, increasing the total time span to 60 days.

At present, the Prairie State’s tax code contains a clause allowing villages, towns and cities to hike tax rates without public “Truth in Taxation” hearings if the rate increase is 5 percent or lower.

“Illinois’ tax-cap law has too many loopholes,” Skillicorn said. “One that hits homeowners in McHenry and Kane Counties the hardest is when the tax rate goes up when our home values stagnate. It was wrong when our home values plummeted in 2009-12, but our property taxes keep going up.”

Skillicorn said that despite no great surge in home values, property tax bills continue to increase on an annual basis.

“I’ve always advocated for doing more with less,” Skillicorn said. “Let’s provide high-quality services at the lowest cost. The residents deserve to hear how these property tax hikes will affect their bottom line before politicians vote to hike taxes.”

Skillicorn initiated the second of his two bills to give homeowners ample time to obtain independent assessments of their property, usually accomplished with the assistance of professional real estate lawyers.

“Property taxes are too high, and Algonquin Township residents are required to file appeals one day before Christmas Eve,” Skillicorn said. “(Homeowners) cannot afford to pay a professional to file on their behalf like a big corporation would. The holiday season is already busy enough. Local officials should not take advantage of the holiday and slip the deadline in just before Christmas. I hope to change this type of practice by giving homeowners more time to complete their appeal paperwork.”

The topic of property taxes is not new to the Skillicorn. As a trustee for the village of East Dundee, he worked hard to instill such reforms locally and convinced the board first to freeze rate — a freeze that has remained in place for the past five years — then successfully promoted more transparency for the benefit of his constituents.

Specifically, Skillicorn ensured that key local data, including financial records, were posted systematically on the village’s website, promoting transparency and accountability among civic leaders. He emphasized repeatedly during his candidacy how property taxes were “crushing homeowners and businesses across Illinois.”

Additionally, his East Dundee district was the first jurisdiction to pass Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda — intended to reduce union power and increase leverage for small businesses — which also included tax freezes.

During the campaign season, the Chicago Tribune endorsed Skillicorn, describing him as “the most outspoken about the need to blow up the status quo in Springfield.”

Skillicorn grew up in Algonquin and now lives in East Dundee with his wife, Heather.