CL Taxes Have Increased More Than Rate of Inflation

Crystal Lake City taxes from 227-2016.

The Crystal Lake Home Rule Sales Tax began on July 1, 2008.  It was passed 6-1 on March 18, 2008, with only Councilman Jeff Thorsen voting in the negative.

If the Crystal Lake City Council members had raised property taxes at the rate of inflation, they would have taken $27 million LESS.

This pirate ship on Williams Street was created by Allen Showater, who has moved from Crystal Lake, as so many others have.  Like the Lincoln Park Pirates, there is a song about Crystal Lake’s 75% Sales Tax Hike.

If they hadn’t imposed the 75% Home Rule Sales Tax hike, shoppers would have saved an additional $37.5 million.

That’s $64.5 million in extra taxes in ten years.

Crystal Lake used to have a sign over the park next to the railroad station.  It read,

Crystal Lake – A Good Place to Live

And we haven’t yet followed up on the staggering increase in Crystal Lake sewer and water rates.

That’s probably because the engineer that brought it to my attention has moved out of town and doesn’t remind me I haven’t done the story yet.


CL Taxes Have Increased More Than Rate of Inflation — 12 Comments

  1. The figures in the chart are in millions of dollars (add three zeros before the decimal point).


    Here is the growth in the unfunded liability (taxpayer IOU to the pension fund) for two of the three pension funds in Crystal Lake over the same period (2015 & 2016 figures can be obtained from the City’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).

    Years 2005 & 2006 are also added.

    These figures are in millions of dollars (no need to add three extra zeros to these figures).

    The unfunded liability is as of each year listed.

    In other words, it is not 11,917,321 for year 2014, plus $11,711,842 for 2013, etc.


    Crystal Lake Firefighters Pension Fund

    Year – Unfunded Liability – Percentage Increase or Decrease over previous year

    2014 – 11,917,321 – 01.75%

    2013 – 11,711,842 – 07.03%

    2012 – 10,942,574 – 14.99%

    2011 – 09,516,035 – 05.23%

    2010 – 09,042,832 – (11.40%) in other words, negative 11.40%

    2009 – 10,206,728 – 53.20%

    2008 – 06,662,068 – 20.24%

    2007 – 05,540,630 – 19.24%

    2006 – 04,646,613 – 02.91%

    2005 – 04,515,696

    Total 2005 – 2014 – 163.91%


    Crystal Lake Police Pension Fund

    Year – Unfunded Liability – Percentage Increase or Decrease over previous year

    2014 – 22,873,951 – 05.22%

    2013 – 21,739,514 – 12.68%

    2012 – 19,292,991 – (0.33%) in other words negative 0.33% or 1/3 of 1%.

    2011 – 19,356,138 – 04.03%

    2010 – 18,607,105 – (12.64%) in other words negative 12.64%

    2009 – 21,299,817 – 44.41%

    2008 – 15,061,998 – 13.23%

    2007 – 13,302,460 – 05.61%

    2006 – 12,595,918 – 2.73%

    2005 – 12,261,281 –

    Total 2005 – 2014 – 86.55%


    The third pension fund in the City of Crystal Lake is the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF).

    Those figures can be obtained by submitting a FOIA request to IMRF, or looking through the past CAFR’s of the City of Crystal Lake.

  2. The source for the Crystal Lake Firefighters Pension Fund and Crystal Lake Police Pension Fund figures listed in the above comment is:

    Illinois Department of Insurance

    Public Pension Division

    2015 Biennial Report (covering years 2013 & 2014)

    Issued October 1, 2015 (the next report is due out about October 1, 2017).

    The Years for both pension funds are fiscal year ending April 30th.

  3. Mark, if I read all the numbers correctly, Crystal Lake has taken in about $57 million MORE in taxes than if taxes had gone up at the rate of inflation, which is 68% MORE than if taxes had gone up at the rate of inflation, and they didn’t even use the money to keep up with the pensions, which increased their liability (covered by the taxpayers) by an additional $17 million.

    Is that correct?

  4. I overheard a Crystal Lakes resident this morning stating that their taxes went up by $600 and they have Senior and Disability exemptions.

    What is the % from 2015 to 2016 that CL residents are seeing on their property tax bill?

  5. Sadly Jeff Thorsen voting in the positive for the County’s Non Dedicated Road program that has no defined plan.
    It’s the same old problem that exists in every form of government.
    Once elected if they want to get reelected, they feel they have to spend it all, raise taxes, and even borrow to buy our votes.
    The state legislation put forward to allow us to vote on tax rates and levies would tone back some of that nonsense.
    I doesn’t matter who put the legislation in bill form, including Jack, it’s right for the over taxed.
    Cal should be openly supporting passage of that legislation.
    Same thing with the county effort to cut 10% at this time.
    Don’t let personnal politics get in the way of saving us all, even if only a little, tax $$$$.

  6. Retail tax income is put into the general fund which the city uses to maintain roads and apparently to subsidize the expenses of downtown CL merchants and building owners.

    The home rule tax increase went into effect around the same time that the downtown TIF expired. Since then, the city has built additional parking lots, purchased parking lots (from Home State Bank), and resurfaced parking lots (Brink Street) that only benefit downtown businesses at NO COST to these downtown businesses and building owners.

    They even gave a national coffee chain additional outdoor seating at the request of the downtown association when the Brink St. parking lot was rebuilt.

    Crystal Lake also plows/maintains all of these parking lots and provides landscaping services for downtown merchants at no cost to these private businesses and building owners.

    It’s a thorny issue that the City probably cannot back away from because long time, existing businesses on Williams Street existed perfectly fine before all of the expensive downtown improvements were implemented.

    But should a City be in the business of unfairly subsidizing the operations of private businesses and building owners in CL while businesses outside of the downtown district pay for all of these expenses on their own?

    What is the return on the City’s downtown investment?

    I am guessing that the return is poor because downtown has filled up with service businesses – attorneys, yoga, salons, etc. that contribute nothing to the general fund because they do not generate significant retail sales dollars.

    This is also incredibly unfair to long-time service businesses that have existed downtown for decades by allowing a plethora of competitors to set up shop within a 2 block area.

    As Steve Willson pointed out in a previous article regarding the close proximity of the Raue to the Opera House, the close proximity of the same type of service businesses in the downtown area ensures that all do mediocre and none do well.

    These weakened businesses cannot survive when there is an economic downturn and instead of a few businesses closing, you see many businesses fold up shop.

    It also dilutes the fun shopping experience in downtown. Downtown has been mismanaged in this way. I have heard the argument that these businesses cannot survive without the city’s help.

    If that is the case, they should not be in business, plain and simple.

    Being in business is survival of the fittest and the City is probably propping up weak businesses.

    I have also heard a downtown business owner (who is on the City EDC) complain about parking issues in downtown.


    The parking lot on the corner of CL Ave. and Main Street is always empty.

    I would like to suggest to this business owner that he should consider moving his business to another location (and pay his own parking lot expenses) OR build his own parking lot.

    The other issue is the commercial property tax inequity in downtown buildings.

    The City has created an unhealthy, “split” business community in Crystal Lake with their favoritism.

    The home rule retail tax increase has made Crystal Lake less competitive and it appears as if they have used some of this increased income to subsidize a favored business district.

  7. And the home for sale signs are popping up like weeds in Spring,
    as people and businesses (those that are still in business) flee
    from Illinois taking their wealth with them to states that are not hostile
    to there citizens. Thank the first DEMOCRAT you see today.

  8. Re: “Thank the first DEMOCRAT you see today.”

    You can add to that the Democrats masquerading as R’s who voted to increase County Taxes:
    Michele Aavang
    Chris Christensen
    Sue Draffkorn
    Joe Gottemoller
    Jim Heisler
    Tina Hill
    John Jung
    Don Kopsell
    Donna Kurtz
    Bob Martens
    Mary McCann
    Robert Nowak
    Michael Rein
    Carolyn Schofield
    Mike Skala
    Larry Smith
    Mike Walkup

    Also interesting is that Walkup and Christensen voted to eliminate the Valley Hi tax but then voted to increase it!

    And they say the voters are confused!

  9. From the article:

    The City of Crystal Lake received Property Tax Revenue from 2007 to 2016 of $110,880,800.

    Starting with the 2007 Property Tax Revenue and increasing annually at the rate of inflation (CPI), the City of Crystal Lake would have received $83,896,500.

    $110,880,800 – $83,896,500 = $26,984,300.

    Thus, the City of Crystal Lake received $26,984,300 more in property tax revenue, than they would have received, if property tax revenue had increased at the rate of inflation (CPI), starting with the 2007 property tax revenue of $83,896,500.

    The source of the property tax revenue statistics in the article was apparently page 165 (pdf page 190) of the 2016 City of Crystal Lake CAFR.


    However, those figures do not match page 173 (pdf page 194) of the same CAFR.

    Page 173 offers some insights into the reason:

    “Above schedule excludes taxes levied and collected on special service areas.

    There is a two-year difference between levy year and the fiscal year for which the taxes are levied.


    So, the property tax statistics for 2016 in the 2016 CAFR correlate to what “Tax Year” on the County Clerk website?

    The City or County Clerk should be able to answer that question.

    Or it might be possible to perform some calculations and figure it out.


    Following is an example of why its not so simple to compare the City of Crystal Lake figures to the County Clerk Computation report figures.

    This is an example of what one finds on the County Clerk Tax Computation Report in the tax section of the County Clerk website:

    Tax Year 2016

    Crystal Lake Rural Fire – separate unit of government

    City Crystal Lake Library – $4,494,534.75

    Crystal Lake Park District – separate unit of government

    Crystal Lake SSA 43 – $86,667.00

    Crystal Lake SSA 44 – $61,675.01

    Crystal Lake SSA 45 – $0.00

    Crystal Lake SSA 46 – $0.00

    Crystal Lake VA St TIF – $25,993.46 (Virgina Street TIF)

    Crystal Lake Main St TIF – $120,692.68

    Crystal Lake Vulcan TIF – $13,719.70

    Crystal Lake City – $3,738,813.77

    Crystal Lake Fire City – $8,140,888.73

    Total – $12,188,450.35


    So what line items and what Tax Year in the County Clerk Computation Report match Property Tax 2016 on pdf page 190 of the 2016 City of Crystal Lake CAFR.


    TIF = Tax Increment Finance District


    Maybe someone wants to look into that and report the findings in comments or submit an article to the blog.

  10. Crystal Lake Firefighters Pension Fund unfunded liability increased from $5,540,630 in 2007 to $11,917,321 in 2014 (2015 & 2016 figures are in the City of Crystal Lake CAFR).

    $11,917,321 – $5,540,630 = $6,376,691.


    Crystal Lake Police Pension Fund unfunded liability increased from $13,302,460 in 2007 to $22,873,951 in 2014 (2015 & 2016 figures are in the City of Crystal Lake CAFR).

    $22,873,951 – $13,302,460 = $9,571,491.


    Crystal Lake Firefighters Pension Fund unfunded liability increase from 2007 – 2014: $6,376,691


    Crystal Lake Police Pension Fund unfunded liability increase from 2007 – 2014: $9,571,491

    = $15,948,182.


    City of Crystal Lake taxpayers owed $15,948,182 more in 2014 to the Crystal Lake Fire & Police pension funds than they did in 2007.

    All that is predicated on various actuarial assumptions such as life expectancy, salary hikes, disabilities, investment returns, and a whole lot more, actually coming to fruition.

    There is a lot of controversy surrounding these actuarial assumptions in general in Illinois and the United States.

  11. Here is another way to look at the unfunded liability (taxpayer IOU to the pension fund) for Crystal Lake Police & Fire pension funds.

    In 2007 taxpayers owed a combined:

    $5,540,630 Crystal Lake Firefighters Pension Fund


    $13,302,460 Crystal Lake Police Pension Fund

    = $18,843,090 Total Fire & Police.

    In 2014 taxpayers owed a combined:

    $11,917,321 Fire


    $22,873,951 Police


    34,791,272 Total Fire & Police.

    Thus, as mentioned in the previous comment, the unfunded liability (taxpayer IOU to the pension fund) for Crystal Lake Fire & Police pension funds combined increased by $15,948,182 from 2007 to 2014.


    A big problem with the unfunded liability is that money is not in the pension fund earning investment returns.

    The investment return on zero, is zero.

    Who makes up the lost investment returns?

    The taxpayer.

    So when anyone say the unfunded liability is not all due at once, that is correct.

    However, an unfunded liability also means the taxpayer IOU grows.

    In other words, unfunded liability results in the taxpayer owing more money, due to the fact there is zero investment return on the unfunded liability.


    The five Illinois state pension funds (does not include local police and fire pension funds) are very poorly funded compared to most states (Kentucky and New Jersey are two other states with poorly funded state pensions).


    At the Federal level, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are three massive unfunded liabilities.

    Most if not all federal civilian and military pensions also have an unfunded liability.

    The Federal government response to this problem is more like a stork than an eagle.

    It’s easy for politicians to hike benefits.

    Not so easy for them to fund the benefits.

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