Residents are by now familiar with real estate tax assessment appeals.
McHenry County Blog even has an advertiser, attorney Jim Bishop, who handles such appeals.
There is, however, a second approach to lowering ones property taxes.
It was in high vogue when I served as McHenry County Treasurer from 1960-1970.
Fully ten percent of property tax bills and dollars were paid under protest.
County government always lost.
I remember the first Finance Committee meeting considering the levy after I had been in office about a year.
The proposed budget, presented by County Auditor Harley Makeban, showed a zero balance at the beginning of the Fiscal Year, December 1, 1967.
I told the Committee that I though we would have at least $10 million in the bank on that date. (Turns out it was more than $10 million.)
The reason was that the County Board was deliberately hoarding money to build a new courthouse.
Last year for the first time in approximately 30 years, a tax objection levy complaint was filed in McHenry County. There are two ways to reduce your tax bill.
This occurs when a group of taxpayers claim that various tax levies issued by local governments are illegal, invalid or constitutionally excessive.
As a matter of course, tax rate levy complaints have been filed every year in all of the collar counties, with the exception of McHenry County.
Last year, the Dwyer Law Office in St. Charles filed a tax rate levy complaint against three McHenry County governments: the City of Crystal Lake, School District 47 and School District 155.
(The information below came from attorney Tim Dwyer.)
A judgment of $1.6 million was taken against the City of Crystal Lake, which the city has appealed.
The complaints against the School Districts are pending.
This year, a tax rate levy complaint will be filed against six or seven units of local government.
For example, one portion of the 2014 complaint will attack the County’s levy for the Valley Hi Nursing Home as excessive and illegal.
One of the most egregious levy claims will be made against Harrison School District 36, which serves the eastern portion of Wonder Lake with Harrison Elementary School.
By all objective accounts, the Harrison School is a fine institution, and has generally received a good “report card” from the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”).
However, the District has been overtaxing its residents for the last three years.
Specifically, District 36 has a Transportation Fund, for which it levies in order to provide access to and for the School.
Over the last five years, the cost of transporting the children to Harrison School has been steady at between $350,000-370,000. And up until 2011, the levy for District 36 was in that neighborhood.
However, in 2012, District 36 levied $800,000 for its Transportation Fund.
In 2013, District 36 adopted a levy of $1,445,000 for its Transportation Fund.
In 2014, District 36 imposed a $1,800,000 levy for transportation costs of $377,000.
Because of the excessive 2012-2013 levies, the District had a $1,200,000 Fund balance for Transportation at the end of fiscal year 2013-14.
Despite having a fund balance of 1.2 million for its Transportation Fund, District 36 adopted a 2014 levy of $1,800,000, making the funds available to pay for its transportation needs ($370,000 on average) over 3 million dollars.
This severely overtaxes the affected residents, and is illegal, St.Charles attorney Tim Dwyer says.
The District has nearly ten times the amount necessary on hand to pay for its transportation costs.
As a result, the tax rate in District 36 is anywhere between 13.6% to 14.9%. When tax rates are
that excessive, taxpayers have severe difficulty in selling their homes.
Similar homes in different townships or neighborhoods have an average tax rate of 11.6%, which is still very high relative of other counties.
In fact, the Transportation Fund tax in District 36 is so high that as of the end of fiscal year 2013-14 (July 1, 2014), District 36 has enough money on hand, according to ISBE, to maintain all of its Funds for 562 days (See attachment).
Without any levy for 2014, District 36 had enough cash on hand to pay all of its expenses for over 1 ½ years.
Nevertheless, in December of 2014, District 36 adopted a Transportation Fund levy of 1.8 million.
If you are reading this, and you live in the area affected by the illegal tax, contact Tim Dwyer at 630-513-0066 or email the Dwyer Law Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you in an area subject to the taxes imposed by District 36, you are eligible for a rebate of at least 20%, and perhaps as much as 40% of your tax bill.