Attacking McHenry County Taxes

Reprinted with permission from the Illinois News Network:


Joe Kaiser

Frustration over high taxes and government waste in Illinois need more than an angry social media post or a moving van. Some residents of McHenry County, Illinois, acted, and are winning reforms.

Joe Tirio and his wife, Karen, run an in-home senior care service in McHenry County, one of the most overtaxed counties in one of the most overtaxed states in the nation.

He wasn’t planning to become a politician, but politics found the Woodstock native. He recalls helping an elderly woman who just moved to the state.

“She got her tax bill and she asked me to come over and look at it because she didn’t think she was looking at it right,” Tirio said.

“She says it looks like it says $7,900 for her 1,300-square-foot townhome. She said, ‘That 7 is a 1, right? It should be $1,900?’ I said ‘nope.’ She almost fell over.”

One of Joe Tirio’s web site. (The other is

Experiences like that – along with witnessing corrupt, wasteful local government – led him to become McHenry County Recorder of Deeds, with the intention of killing the superfluous political job.

His effort succeeded, and the recorder position will vanish Dec. 1, 2020. It will save Tirio’s neighbors a little on their property tax bills.

“Is it going to change the way you live? Probably not,” Tirio said.

“But is it a step in the right direction, and should we overlook $100,000 in salary and benefits and pensioners that could be on the rolls at any time?”

“We didn’t just eliminate the recorder’s position.

“We eliminated every politician that was salivating to get into the office.”

Tirio in November comfortably won election as county clerk.

He can’t eliminate that office because of its statutory tie to the county’s existence, but he can clean up waste and patronage driving up that elderly woman’s property taxes.

“When I think about the people in this county, that’s the face that I see.”

Property tax revolt

Another property tax bill created another McHenry County rebel.

Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Bob Miller’s half century of rule ended amid increased scrutiny of his record of patronage and waste.

For decades Miller won easy election and used taxpayer money on frivolous personal items – such as Disneyland tickets, liquor and women’s clothing – and hired members of his family to high-priced township positions.

“What do these people make? [Township officials] up here in McHenry, Nunda, Grafton townships… you have people making upwards of $100,000. To me these would be clerical positions,” said Jamie Grubich, McHenry resident and township consolidation advocate.

“There needs to be me and 50,000 other people in Illinois saying the same thing.”

Anderson in 2017 led a slate of candidates to win township board seats on the platform of abolishing the McHenry Township Road District and combining its services with the rest of the township.

The road district had its own share of patronage and waste.

McHenry Township Road Commissioner Jim Condon hired the son of Nunda Township Highway Commissioner Mike Lesperance to an unlisted position.

Soon after voters ousted Miller, Condon handed him a $40-per-hour consultant position.

When Anderson and the other reformers on the township board asked Condon about the hires, he replied, “Do you have a problem with that?”

McHenry County has 17 townships, local layers of government valued in the 1800s but that now are often redundant and too often corrupt. Nunda, Algonquin and nearby Grafton townships have all faced criminal investigations.

The McHenry County state’s attorney in March wrote in a report that the township form of government is full of “incompetence, guile and impropriety.”

He didn’t have enough evidence to bring criminal charges, but recommended township consolidation to fix the deep flaws.

Anderson got a referendum on the ballot in November to kill the McHenry Township Road District, but his effort was outspent and came up short.

“We found out when government is established, how difficult it is to remove it,” Anderson told supporters on election night.

But the insurgents have new hope. House Bill 4637 is on the governor’s desk.

If signed, it would make it much easier for residents to abolish townships in McHenry County. Instead of gathering petition signatures from 10 percent of the voters in each of the county’s 17 townships just to eliminate one township, residents would only need 5 percent of the voters’ signatures and only from the targeted township to force a consolidation vote.

Joe Tirio announces he is running for McHenry County Clerk.

“The people who say you can’t fight city hall are the people in city hall,” Tirio said.

“Because they don’t want you fighting.

“The fact is it doesn’t take that much effort to really fight city hall.

“There are more people like you than you know until you get out there and you get to know them.

“And before you know it, the numbers just multiply.”

Stay or go

Fed-up taxpayers can complain, they can revolt, or they can head for the exits.

Between 2010 and 2017, McHenry County – like the counties around it and the state at large – has seen serious domestic net outmigration. In that time frame, the county lost more than 11,000 residents on net to other areas.

New U.S. Census estimates show Illinois again lost population in 2018, the fifth straight year and at the rate of a plane full of people leaving every day for another state.

There is little doubt the exodus is driven by the intense tax burden. Residents told pollsters that taxes are their No. 1 reason for wanting to leave.

“It makes me sad to think there’s a possibility that I might not want to live here,” said Grubich, who for now is staying and aiding the local policy revolution.

“I liked having my roots in one spot. I like being able to give my kids that feeling of being comfortable in one spot. We have a solid 8-10 years to really want to remain here for those reasons.”

While he understands why people are heading for the exits, Tirio said it’s worth  staying and fighting for reform.

“Illinois is a great state,” Tirio said.

“The natural gifts that we have – the great land, the access to water, it’s a beautiful place, we have a world class city and it’s centrally located.

“All that stuff. People should be leaving the desert to come here.”

“We aren’t ready to leave without a fight. We aren’t about to let a bunch of blankety blank politicians steal our state, steal our home, without a good fight.”


Attacking McHenry County Taxes — 32 Comments

  1. Anyone take note of who was in court to show support for Joe?

    Tell me, were any of the following there?

    Mike Tryon?
    Ken Koehler?
    Pam Althoff?
    Any other current County Board members?
    Bob Anderson?
    Mark Daniel?
    Any mayors?

    BTW attacking Townships is one of Franks hobbies. He likes to work with McSweeney on that topic.

    Meanwhile the LIAR cements his position in the County and the Pension issue is ignored.

    At least Reick gets it.

  2. I’m sure we’re getting more illegal aliens to offset this exodus of taxpayers in numbers but at a loss in revenue and increase in expenditures as they increase the use of public services and welfare .

    Who wants welfare voters support ?

  3. Yearly reminder that potato salad is the food of barbarians.

    Mayonnaise is a condiment, not a meal!

  4. Very well said.

    I can say from our perspective, people are in fact waking up and fighting back statewide.

    The key is getting those angry people to contact the appropriate venue to get the malfeasance and corruption exposed and in most cases, that is NOT the local media.

    Watchdog groups are popping up all over the country and it is working.

    Will it be fast enough to save this state?

    Until we have prosecutors willing to indict and prosecute public officials, we are doomed.

    I completely disagree that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Miller.

    Unless you put people before a grand jury to answer questions you’re never going to get an indictment.

    I understand on the first round of investigations that did not happen for all kind of reasons.

    Indict and then let a jury hear the evidence.

    Free trips to Disneyland for not only him but his grandkid is not legal.

    Nor is giving away road salt, nor is running his own private non-profit out of the township office, nor is the taxpayers paying for his attorney bills for his private nonprofit.

    The list goes on.

    I have said for the last 10 years, the two most dangerous people in public office is a States’ Attorney and a Supervisor of Assessments.

    One controls how much they take from your pocket in property tax and the other decides if ANYTHING is kept in check.

    Both are political positions and we are clearly at a point where politics has destroyed a once great state.

  5. Intelligent people realize that Illinois is beyond fiscal redemption in their lifetime and far beyond,
    this is why they are leaving.

    It’s become a question of how much are you
    willing to sacrifice to remain political prisoners of Illinois DEMOCRATS.

    Get ready to shoulder the burden of a 30 cents a gallon tax hike, courtesy of the tax and spend DEMOCRATS of Illinois.

  6. Again, for the unlearned, McHenry Township in not the clown show that Algonquin Township has become.

    Trying to link the two townships is pointless, but some just cant think logically on the subject.

    So just stop with this eliminate township drivel.

  7. It’s the SCHOOL DISTRICTS Stupid!

    (But those positions don’t pay six figure salaries).

  8. Disappointed in Kirk’s comment.

    Assessments have absolutely nothing to do with how much you pay in taxes other than how many people are employed to perform the job and assessments can dictate what percentage of the total tax burden you have to pay.

    It is the Levy by all government bodies that dictates your property taxes.

    In the suburbs we bear the burden of supporting Chicago schools via Springfield.

    Property taxes for schools in the suburbs are three fold what property taxes are in Chicago.

    People leave Chicago because of the crime and shutdown of public housing – people leave Illinois because the rest of state subsidizes Chicago AND voters screwed up by guaranteeing public sector pensions for people like the LIAR.

  9. Assessors state wide are over valuing property and it does impact what people pay in property tax.

    Local governments capitalize on those inflated valuations.

  10. The fact that Kirk Allen thinks the Assessor controls how much is taxed says so much.

  11. “Local governments capitalize on those inflated valuations.”


    The government body determines how much they can extract from the property owners and then the Clerk determines what every property owner’s share of the burden will be based on the assessment.

    If your assessment is out of line – appeal it.

    Government bodies could care less about your assessment or what your share will be.

    Until the voters start electing people who will reduce the levy (like Gasser and some Township Trustees and a few municipal bodies – in McHenry even the Conservation District is on that band wagon and the County College has frozen its levy amount for five years) property taxes will continue to rise.

    The root problem is the inequitable funding of Chicago schools, pensions and what we pay public sector employees.

    Want a target?

    Go after Firemen – replace them with private sector employees.

    Attacking assessors will do very little if anything.

  12. PTEL is yet another joke foisted on us by the legislature. While it limits tax rate increases, it doesn’t do anything to rein in a rogue assessor who inflates assessed values.

    Simple math, I think. If you have an assessed valuation of $100K and PTEL limits the tax rate for XXX to $ 5.25/hundred or whatever, you get $5250 in tax revenue. Only way to get around the Tax Cap is to increase the assessment. Even a modest increase in EAV will be a windfall for the taxing bodies.

    Change that EAV from $100K to $110K and that $5.25 rate becomes $577.50.

    Somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think PTEL has any control over assessed valuation.

  13. CTD you must understand the skew created when “overvalued” assessments appeal, but “undervalued” assessments do not.

    For example, Dorr Township Assessments have chronically been too low, relative to other Townships paying in to the common school district Woodstock D200, as evidenced by years of Equalization Factors adjusting upward.

    That means that for example Seneca Township properties have been subsidizing Dorr Township properties, for many years.
    (The same tax rate is applied to all properties; so under-assessment is highly rewarded at the expense of over-assessment).

    Supervisor of Assessments has the authority to overrule Township assessments.

    So Kirk Allen is correct in his assertion of the enormous economic power of economic-reward-to-friends-or-punishment–of-non-friends inherent in that office.

  14. **Assessors state wide are over valuing property and it does impact what people pay in property tax.**

    That’s simply not how the property tax system works.

    If all property of overvalued, everyone still pays the same amount.

    The amount you pay is set by the levies of each local govt unit. Your assessment just sets what % if the total levy you pay.

  15. I understand the tax process very well and when assessments are elevated it does numerous things.

    One it impacts the overall EAV which has a DIRECT impact on debt limitations, meaning those local public bodies can go deeper into debt.

    Nothing good comes from elevated assessments.

    Another is bonding ability.

    Make things look better on paper and presto, bond companies are knocking on the door to give you more money, which we pay for.

    I understand we can appeal but as most know, they bank on the majority not appealing those assessments.

    Read up on the crap storm in Coles county that is on its second year in court over a Supervisor of Assessments that elevated assessments for a specific purpose, to raise EAV which allowed the school to borrow more money, which we the taxpayer pays for.

  16. More people need to run.

    Get in.

    Get done.

    Get out.

    No more multi-decade dynasties.

    If your local government bodies are not putting all of their bills online for inspection that is a problem.

    This is not a Republican or Democrat thing – it is the political class against the rest of us.

    Manipulating the system for personal gain not only for themselves, but their families and friends too.

    Just look how no one will condemn Miller and his regime.

    Hell, hire him for $40 an hour and hire his kids too.

    The political class circles up the wagons quick.

    No problem.

    Nothing to see here.

    The twisted and contorted shape shifting by local politicians is why people are leaving.

  17. AS it is not realistic to assume that “all” property is uniformly over- or under- valued.

    Property assessments are subjective, and assessors are human.

    Until and unless a uniform algorithm is applied to mass appraisals, we are at risk of “Pritzkers Toiletz” style disparities.

  18. Guab the way ptell works, although with exceptions big enough to bankrupt most homeowners, is not by limiting tax Rate, but by limiting tax Levy.

    In general, Ptell limits next year’s levy to 105% or less of this year’s levy.

  19. Note my comment was direct to Supervisors of Assessments, which is at the county level. I am not talking about local township assessors. At the County level, they have enormous power to raise EAV which impacts everyone in the long run. It is not just about what each person pays in property tax. Increased EAV is a key force behind increased debt limits and schools are the worst abuser of that.

  20. Lots of good info as it relates to EAV and our Education system at this link.

    Paragraphs below from that report found at the link above.

    The increase in the EAV increases districts’ tax levy ability and the debt capacity. The increased tax levy ability increases districts’ local revenue, which could improve the Fund Balance to Revenue, Expenditure to Revenue, and Days Cash on Hand indicators. If districts do not issue additional debt, the increased debt threshold lowers the percentage of debt outstanding and improves short- and long-term debt indicators.

    The 2018 Financial Profile (based upon FY 2017 financial data) reflects positive results due to increased
    EAVs, revenue, and maintaining expenditures. But it must be also be understood that these accomplishments
    were also realized through continued borrowing, though at a lesser amount than last year.

  21. @Susan

    Thanks for the clarification.

    That said, over assessing does no one (other than the taxing bodies) any good.

  22. Who is unauthorized to practice law in Illinois? Need a full name to plug into the search box at the link provided.

  23. He’s referring to Rep. Steve Reick.

    According to the ARDC website, he hasn’t fulfilled his continuing education requirements.

    Perhaps he isn’t practicing any more, and that’s why he hasn’t bothered with it.

  24. I think you are mixing up the trip to Los Angeles for a convention during which Disneyland was visited at taxpayer expense with a trip to New Orleans during which the Millers’ daughter, plus a grandkid had the plane tickets paid for by taxpayers.

  25. My Hero, not that it changes much but some of flight’s to that New Orleans trip were reimbursed at that time, or so I’m told.

  26. Hey Robin, if they were reimbursed then they used public credit which is a violation of our State Constitution.

    Reimbursements have been used as evidence of a crime and convictions resulted.

    Why not in McHenry County?

    And all those FOIA’s you complain about, one was for ALL reimbursements and I was told there were NONE!

  27. What do the property taxes cover?

    Is there something above standard?

    Is waste management rolled into property taxes?

    I am looking at piece of real estate and the taxes are 16k.

    Is there gold in the ground?

    Are the schools like private school standard?

    I would like real answers.

  28. My garbage fee in Lakewood is billed separately.

    Perhaps others will post how they pay theirs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.