Two township officials in northern Illinois want to hit the pause button on property taxes to make sure residents aren’t being overtaxed and prevent reserve funds from piling up in government coffers.
State law prohibits the more than 1,400 townships across the state from having more than two and a half years worth of operating expenses.
Township Officials of Illinois Executive Director Bryan Smith said townships must be careful not to set tax levies higher than needed.
“They need to have a little cushion, obviously, in case something would happen, but they are definitely not in business to be a bank,” Smith said.
Maine Township Trustee Susan Sweeney wants her fellow board members to take up her measure to abate, or temporarily halt, a portion of the townships property tax levy. If they don’t agree, she said the taxing body would build up about 3 years worth of operating expenses for the general assistance fund in the bank.
Public finance analysts at Wirepoints found that Maine Township had enough money in reserve to run township services for nearly three years without collecting additional taxes. Where annual expenditures were around $870,000, public records show the township had $2.4 million.
“I see no reason why we had to go back to the taxpayers and to continue to levy more taxes from the taxpayer probably to the tune of more than $2 million more than what we need, which is why I’m calling for an abatement,” Sweeney said.
The township’s governing board rejected Sweeney’s measure this month with only two trustees supporting it.
Before the vote Jan. 22, the township’s attorney said the county will still calculate the aggregate extension and whatever they end up abating, whatever the final number is, that’s what the county will use in future calculations.
Sweeney said says she’ll move to consider the measure again in February.
The abatement wouldn’t include the road fund, fellow Trustee Dave Carrabotta said of the proposal, but the town fund should abate back 30 percent from the existing levy. He said there’s enough money in the general assistance fund that there should be a 100 percent abatement.
Last month Shelbyville Township rebated, or gave back, more than $700,000 of its reserves to taxpayers.
In Maine Township, Sweeney said an abatement would be a prudent move. It wouldn’t be a budget cut she said because the township’s reserves have enough money on hand to cover the coming budget, and then some.
“It makes no sense to levy for what we don’t need and would be in violation of statute to accumulate the excess funds,” she said. “It’s illogical to not abate. It’s irresponsible to not abate. It’s overtaxing to not abate.”
Sweeney said she would encourage other townships to abate property taxes before they are forced to rebate taxes back.
Smith said every township should make sure it’s not stockpiling money.
“The township board needs to take a hard look at their finances,” Smith said. “They should not be a bank. They’re not there to be a bank. They’re there to provide services for their taxpayers and if they don’t need that money they shouldn’t be levying for it and that’s what we tell them.”