McSweeney, ex-school board leader at odds on property taxes
Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) debated the good and bad of a property tax freeze with Tom Neely, former president of the Morton Illinois School Board USD 709, in the Illinois House on Friday.
McSweeney is a proponent of cutting and freezing property taxes, but Neely argued that while a property tax freeze might sound good, it could be disastrous to many districts dependent on the revenue stream.
“For our district, it would be very detrimental because of the fact that property taxes are the only reliable source of revenue,” Neely said. “Ninety percent of our revenue comes from local sources, 5 percent from the State of Illinois and 5 percent from the federal government.”
The Morton school district could lose millions, Neely contended.
“A five-year impact of a two-year freeze amounts to a loss of$ 3.865 million for our school district,” Neely said. “A five-year impact of a four-year freeze amounts to a loss of $6 million.”
McSweeney countered that property taxes are pushing businesses and people out of the state. Illinois has one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, second only to New Jersey. Republican lawmakers have proposed a measure to implement a four-year property tax freeze and give voters the option of deciding whether to increase, lower or maintain their property tax rates when the freeze ends.
McSweeney said he found it baffling that Neely disputed the benefits of a property tax freeze and seemingly does not trust local constituents to direct the course of their property tax futures.
“We’re just killing people with property taxes in this state,” McSweeney said. “We obviously need relief. While there would be a four-year freeze … [legislation such as HB4066] allows local voters to approve an increase. Why are you opposed to that? Why not give your citizens the ability to make the decision? Why is that a problem?”
Neely said that Morton had tried to give voters a say in their property taxe,s but the results were disappointing.
“We have done that," he said. "We just did it to raise taxes to add onto our gyms. When we think about the people of Illinois, and I think about the dollars that the people in Morton send to the State of Illinois and how little we get back -- only 5 percent of the dollar -- if we had a more equitable funding system, then maybe our home owners in Morton would be in a position that they could do the very thing you talked about.”
McSweeney maintained that Illinoisans are tired of high property taxes and should have a say in what they pay.
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