Property Tax Cutting Referendums – Research Design

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn asked the Legislative Research Unit to take a look at two questions:

  1. Could property taxes have been lowered by referendum before PTELL [FN 1] [called the Property Tax Cap by most folks]?  If so, did that ever occur?
  2. Is it still possible in the non-PTELL counties to do so?  If so, can a PTELL county revert to non-PTELL status?

McHenry County Blog will share the reply over the next few days.

Research Design

We examined PTELL and other parts of the Property Tax Code, [FN2] and searched for other laws that might authorize referenda to limit or reduce local taxing districts’ levies. [FN3]

We also contacted the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) [FN4] and Illinois Municipal League [FN5] regarding any laws that authorized referenda to lower property taxes, either before or after PTELL was enacted.

We found provisions in the Property Tax Code that generally authorize referenda, initiated by voters or governing bodies, to increase or reduce the “maximum tax rate limit” of some kinds of taxing districts. This authorization does not appear to depend on PTELL status, but it is restricted in some other ways.

PTELL also has provisions authorizing referenda to reduce school district tax rates in specific circumstances, and to revert from PTELL to non-PTELL status.

We describe those provisions below.

We also asked IDOR, the Illinois Municipal League, and the State Board of Elections [FN6] for any information they have on whether a referendum to lower property taxes has ever been held.

We also used the State Board of Elections’ referenda database, and the NewsBank database of Illinois newspapers, to search for information on referenda to lower property taxes in some way.

These searches are described below. We also describe below, and in Appendix A to this letter, the rather small number of such referenda (mostly held after PTELL was enacted) that we found.

More tomorrow.

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