WBEZ | property taxes http://www.wbez.org/tags/property-taxes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago City Council approves Emanuel's 'challenging' budget http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-city-council-approves-emanuels-challenging-budget-113540 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_395280994494.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago aldermen have overwhelmingly approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s financially and politically costly 2016 budget plan.</p><p>While passage was expected, several aldermen had hinted they might buck the mayor and vote against his spending plan. The final vote count of 36 to 14, and other subsequent votes, show that Emanuel convinced most of the city council that a $534 million property tax hike was the only way the city could afford a state-mandated payment into its police and fire pension funds.</p><p>&ldquo;It is not final. We have more work ahead of us, but from 2011 are we closer to the other side of the shore of fixing our finances than before?&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;I can answer affirmatively...we are better.&rdquo;</p><p>Aldermen who spoke at Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting did not hold back on how difficult or challenging it was for them to approve the $7.8 billion dollar budget. Once the votes were tallied, aldermanic staffers tweeted or emailed statements from their bosses, reiterating how difficult this decision was for them.</p><p>New Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41), a former firefighter, said he&rsquo;d feel less pressure escaping a burning building than dealing with the budget process. Napolitano ended up voting against the budget, because he said too many of his constituents, even his neighbors who are police officers and firefighters, felt the tax burden was too great.</p><p>&ldquo;Hundreds of people would come into my office, call me or email me: &lsquo;Anthony, we realize this is our pension, but don&rsquo;t vote for it. This really hurts this neighborhood,&rsquo;&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But Ald. Pat O&rsquo;Connor (40), the mayor&rsquo;s floor leader, said there was no other option.</p><p>&ldquo;We all know the saying: The only two things that are certain is death and taxes,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor said. &ldquo;In this instance for Chicago, it is death or taxes. Because clearly our city will decay and will denigrate and our services will be severely hampered if we do not take the appropriate steps.&rdquo;</p><p>Beyond the property tax hike for police and fire pensions, aldermen also approved a $45 million annual property tax increase for school construction and modernization projections. &nbsp;E-cigarettes will also be taxed, and single family homes and smaller apartment buildings will have to kick in $9.50 a month for garbage pickup.. This was a big issue for many aldermen, including Ald. David Moore (17), who supported the mayor&rsquo;s spending package, but not his revenue plan.</p><p>&ldquo;I cannot in anyway support and go against my residents when they look at me and say don&rsquo;t you go down there and vote for that garbage fee,&rdquo; Moore said.</p><p>Aldermen also approved new rules for cab and ride-sharing companies. Under the newest agreement, cab drivers will have access to financial aid to make the process of getting a chauffeur&#39;s license less expensive, but they didn&rsquo;t win their biggest battle: keeping ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar out of the airport pickup line. Those companies will have to pay an additional $5 surcharge for every pick up or drop off at O&rsquo;Hare, Midway, McCormick Place or Navy Pier, and they&rsquo;ll also have to pay the city a 52 cent fee for every ride. On the cab side, fares will increase 15 percent and the city will also institute a per ride fee of 50 cents.</p><p>A few unknowns still remain in the budget. First, the $543 million property tax increase is based on the state lowering the mandated police and fire pension payments, but Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn&rsquo;t signed off on the bill. Second, the mayor has long promised that homes valued at $250,000 or less would be shielded from the property tax increase, but he needs Springfield for that too.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s office worked with aldermen like Michelle Smith (43) to come up with a potential plan B in the event that dead-locked Springfield doesn&rsquo;t come through. The resolution, which passed today, calls for the implementation of a city-administered rebate program for longtime homeowners.</p><p>By press time, responses from Wall Street were mixed. In a statement, Standard and Poor&rsquo;s officials said their ratings will stay the same, as they still &ldquo;consider the city&#39;s financial problems substantial, particularly because we anticipate that the city&#39;s required pension contributions will continue to increase and place pressure on the city&#39;s budget--one of the primary drivers of our rating.&rdquo; Moody&rsquo;s applauded the council&rsquo;s efforts in raising revenue for the unfunded pension liabilities, but joined S&amp;P in reiterating the point that the city isn&rsquo;t certain Springfield will come through.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 13:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-city-council-approves-emanuels-challenging-budget-113540 ‘Trust issues’ with Springfield have aldermen looking for property tax relief plan B http://www.wbez.org/news/%E2%80%98trust-issues%E2%80%99-springfield-have-aldermen-looking-property-tax-relief-plan-b-113491 <p><div>Citing &ldquo;trust issues&rdquo; with Springfield lawmakers, many Chicago aldermen are looking for another way to help homeowners stomach higher property taxes.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>More than 30 aldermen have signed their names on proposals that would give rebates to struggling taxpayers. Two members say that without the assurance of that plan B, they&rsquo;ll vote no on the budget.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long said his proposed $543 million property tax hike would come with a break for homes valued at $250,000 or less and a doubling of the homeowner&rsquo;s exemption. But the mayor&rsquo;s plan requires approval from state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner, and so far it has only passed through one committee. State lawmakers won&rsquo;t meet again until November, and aldermen are scheduled to cast their budget vote on October 28th.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_821590849688.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 200px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to lawmakers while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Springfield, Ill. Democrats in the General Assembly continue attempts at flanking the Republican governor on the budget impasse, advancing legislation that would distribute money that's already been collected to local governments, lottery winners and more. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)" /></p><div>Alderman John Arena (45) said he and his colleagues have &ldquo;trust issues&rdquo; with deadlocked Springfield, and that makes it tough to believe lawmakers will come through on the exemption plan.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re gonna hope that they do their job, we hope they&rsquo;ll do the right thing, so that Chicago can deal with this very important issue, if not, let&rsquo;s do what we can within our purview,&rdquo; Arena said.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Providing property tax relief through rebates is not a new idea at City Hall: Mayor Richard M. Daley started a <a href="https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2009/october_2009/mayor_daley_announces.html" target="_blank">rebate program</a> as part of his 2010 budget. But Ald. Michele Smith (43) said as the budget vote gets closer, there is &ldquo;rising sentiment in the council for a rebate program.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Smith introduced an ordinance this week that would assist homeowners age 60 or older who have owned their homes for 18 years or more and are facing triennial assessments higher than 30 percent. <a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2501244&amp;GUID=A8909CD3-6249-4D5D-82CD-CFCAC6B167F5&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Her plan</a> is an attempt to widen another rebate plan from <a href="http://www.ward1.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/RELIEF.pdf" target="_blank">Ald. Proco &ldquo;Joe&rdquo; Moreno (1) who proposed a relief program</a> for households earning $100,000 or less a year -- an announcement he made weeks before the mayor&rsquo;s official budget announcement.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2469616&amp;GUID=E60FA614-1C64-40BC-AE85-9214DC5F6760&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank">A third proposal from members of the Progressive Caucus</a> would distribute funds that members say are still left over from Daley&rsquo;s rebate program in 2010. &nbsp;One of the sponsors, Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35) said without a rebate program or final approval in Springfield on the homeowner&#39;s exemption, he&rsquo;d cast a no-vote next Wednesday. Arena is with him, calling a budget without either of those items a &ldquo;deal breaker.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Emanuel&rsquo;s staff didn&rsquo;t say whether the mayor would be open to including one of these rebate programs in the budget. Instead, they repeated what Emanuel and his staff have constantly said about the homeowner&rsquo;s exemption: That the plan has never been contentious or controversial in Springfield before, so there is no reason it will be now.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/%E2%80%98trust-issues%E2%80%99-springfield-have-aldermen-looking-property-tax-relief-plan-b-113491 Fallout over College of DuPage spending could hurt students http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Open%20mic%201%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 194px; width: 620px;" title="Between classes at the school’s Glen Ellyn campus this week, students enjoy an open-mic session. The college’s 28,000 enrollees, mostly working-class, could be hurt beyond the price of a controversial $760,000 severance package. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>The other day in a College of DuPage cafeteria, student Rachel Fatigato told me she is not getting help from her parents to pay her tuition.<br /><br />&ldquo;They can&rsquo;t afford it,&rdquo; said Fatigato, 20, who grew up a few miles north of the Glen Ellyn campus. &ldquo;I pay for school myself so I don&rsquo;t currently have any money and I&rsquo;m running low on funds for school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Fatigato, a television production major, is struggling to become the first member of her family to earn a college degree. So it bothers her, she said, to see how the college is spending its money.</p><p>&ldquo;The PE building and the MAC building are very nice,&rdquo; she said, referring to renovations of the college&rsquo;s Physical Education Center and McAninch Arts Center. &ldquo;But I feel like they overdid it in a lot of ways. Some of the statues, we don&rsquo;t need. And the fountain &mdash; it&rsquo;s got a giant glass mural-type thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Then Fatigato told me about a fear she shares with many students. It&rsquo;s a fear that is getting drowned out by a public furor over a $760,000 severance package for the school&rsquo;s president.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to raise tuition and then people like me who pay for school by myself will not be able to afford it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Big tuition hikes may seem far-fetched for a community college that brags about operating reserves exceeding $177 million last year. But the backlash against the College of DuPage&rsquo;s spending habits is very real. The critics once consisted mostly of faculty union leaders and local Tea Party activists. Now their ranks have spread to business leaders, newspaper editorial boards and west-suburban state lawmakers from both parties.</p><p>They&rsquo;re upset about the severance package, which will send off President Robert Breuder three years before his contract would have been up. They&rsquo;re mad about his satellite phones and booze tab. They wonder whether he built the college&rsquo;s French restaurant and boutique hotel to provide perks to administrators instead of training opportunities for culinary and hospitality students.<br /><br />To find out how the uproar could affect the school&rsquo;s future, I asked to speak with Breuder, his spokesman and the chairwoman of the board of trustees. They all declined. At a board meeting last week, another trustee insisted that the severance package was the best deal the school could get.</p><p>When the dust settles &mdash; when those administrators and trustees are gone &mdash; there could still be a steep price for today&rsquo;s turmoil. It&rsquo;s a price that would be paid largely by the college&rsquo;s 28,000 students and by working-class families, such as Fatigato&rsquo;s, who are counting on the College of DuPage for a leg up.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s if the public kept the impression that their taxes bankroll golden parachutes and lavish amenities instead of instructional programs. See, it&rsquo;s the public that is paying most College of DuPage expenses. Aside from tuition and student fees ($66 million in fiscal 2014), the largest sources of operating revenue are real-estate taxes ($108 million) and state appropriations ($55 million). Both of those spigots can open and close in response to political pressures, including taxpayer revolts like the one brewing in DuPage County.<br /><br />Then there are the bond sales that finance the college&rsquo;s major construction projects. The authority for those sales requires approval from local voters &mdash; mainly the same taxpayers. The most recent College of DuPage bond referendum, a 2010 measure, passed by a slim margin.<br /><br />&ldquo;The next time that the college needs to go out and ask for money for something legitimate, [voters] will remember the expensive French restaurant,&rdquo; warned David Goldberg, a political science professor at the college. &ldquo;They will remember the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout that the president has received. And they will rightfully be concerned about where their tax dollars are going to go.&rdquo;<br /><br />And if they decide to put fewer of those dollars into the College of DuPage, Goldberg said, it could eventually lead to program cuts and tuition hikes. The primary victims, in other words, will be students.</p><p><em>To hear an extended version of this story, including more voices, click on the audio player above.&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 Illinois high court upholds school funding system http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-high-court-upholds-school-funding-system-104112 <p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a decision to toss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state&#39;s system of funding public school districts largely through property taxes.</p><p>The high court issued its unanimous opinion Thursday, agreeing with a lower court ruling.</p><p>Hundreds of public school districts are funded mostly through property taxes. The state sets minimum per student funding levels with specified tax rates for each district.</p><p>The 2010 lawsuit argued some residents in poorer districts whose property is worth less must pay a higher tax rate to reach funding levels of those in wealthier school districts. It called that unconstitutional and unfair.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s opinion says local communities themselves determine the tax rate. And it says any disparities that result aren&#39;t a direct result of the state&#39;s funding statute.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-high-court-upholds-school-funding-system-104112 At Emanuel budget forum, TIF question raises roof http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-budget-forum-tif-question-raises-roof-91374 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-01/Rahm2.JPG_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The questions Wednesday night ranged from potholes to bus fares, from school-day hours to traffic-aide layoffs. But nothing roused the crowd like the city’s 165 tax-increment-financing districts, which draw off half-a-billion property-tax dollars a year for economic development.</p><p>About 700 people overflowed a gym at Malcolm X College on Chicago’s West Side for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s second public meeting on a city budget gap he says will top $635 million.</p><p>Ashley Moy-Wooten of the Chicago-based Grassroots Collaborative told the mayor too many TIF dollars have gone to big companies like United Airlines.</p><p>“Would you commit to not giving any money to these giant corporations?” she asked, provoking the evening’s biggest round of applause. “And would you commit to shutting down these downtown TIFs?”</p><p>Emanuel made no promises but said it was “wrong” for the big companies to get TIF funds when neighborhoods were suffering. “I can’t reverse the past,” the mayor added. “I have to shape the future. That’s why I created a new standard that we finally have.”</p><p>Emanuel said a TIF overhaul proposed this week by a panel he appointed would bring more transparency and jobs.</p><p>The 90-minute forum followed a similar event Monday evening at Kennedy-King College on the city’s South Side.</p></p> Thu, 01 Sep 2011 05:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-budget-forum-tif-question-raises-roof-91374 The Paper Machete Radio Magazine 8/27/11: The Getting Screwed Episode http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-31/paper-machete-radio-magazine-82711-getting-screwed-episode-91301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/briarrabbit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-31/kellykleiman.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px;" title="Kelly Kleiman (Photo by Ali Weiss Klinger)"></p><p>We at Paper Machete have a new theme song this week -- it's "Pickin' Up the Pieces" by Fitz &amp; the Tantrums -- and lots of stories about and for people who just aren't getting what they should.</p><p>On our most recent episode, <strong>Kim Bellware</strong> talks about Syl Johnson, whose song "Different Strokes" wasn't cleared to be sampled on Kanye West and Jay Z's new album <em>Watch the Throne</em>.</p><p><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong> discusses how some MAJOR Chicago institutions aren't paying property taxes and why-on-earth they'd do such a thing.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Shannon Cason</strong> goes to the Southside and fills us in on&nbsp;the Moo and Oink grill, and food deserts.</p><p>And <strong>Briar Rabbit</strong> wraps things up with some tunes.&nbsp;</p><p>As usual, if you can hear us, this magazine is LIVE.&nbsp;Download it&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=450280345" style="color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank">here</a>, or listen below.</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483704-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/2011-08-27-thepapermachete-radio-magazine.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><div style="word-wrap: break-word;"><p>And this coming Saturday promises to be an exciting one -- we have <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0842140/">Julia Sweene</a>y, SNL alum and very funny lady. Chad Briggs from <a href="http://www.chicagoundergroundcomedy.com/">Chicago Underground Comedy</a> will be there; Erin Shea Smith, author of<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Scale-Erin-J-Shea/dp/1593373287"><em> Tales from the Scale</em></a>; Phil Dawkins, <em>The Paper Machete</em> "Culture Schlock" reporter who combines arts &amp; crafts with skewering pop cultural analysis; Stephanie McCanles of <a href="http://thecancershow.com/"><em>The Cancer Show</em></a>; Bond Benton of the <a href="http://www.palookajournal.com/">Palooka Journal</a>, and <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3694753/">Michael Patrick Thornton</a> of ABC's <em>Private Practice</em>, and The Gift Theatre. And finally, Paper Thick Walls will serenade us with the sweet sweet songs of the end of summer.</p><p>Additionally, if you liked what you heard at the end of this week's podcast (or even if you didn't, just suck it up), head to <a href="http://lincolnhallchicago.com/">Lincoln Hall</a> tonight for more Briar Rabbit.</p><div style="word-wrap: break-word; text-align: left;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-31/briarrabbit.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px;" title="Briar Rabbit (Photo by Ali Weiss Klinger)"></div></div></p> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-31/paper-machete-radio-magazine-82711-getting-screwed-episode-91301 Emanuel defends proposed property-tax hike for schools http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-defends-proposed-property-tax-hike-schools-90330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-09/Emanuel_3.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to take on City Hall’s budget gap without raising taxes. But he’s taking a different tack with red ink at the school district he controls.<br> <br> Emanuel on Tuesday defended a $150 million property-tax hike proposed by Chicago Public Schools last week.<br> <br> “We’ve got to make the tough choices,” Emanuel told reporters.<br> <br> The mayor praised the school district for trying to balance the books without packing more kids into classrooms. “We’ve not only protected the classroom, we’ve expanded educational choices and opportunities for the parents that rely on the school system,” Emanuel said.<br> <br> Emanuel pointed to new charter schools and additional funds for magnet schools, full-day kindergarten, a teacher-training academy and security cameras.<br> <br> The schools budget also includes hundreds of millions of dollars of program cuts affecting students. The reductions range from staffing at “turnaround” high schools to a dual-language pilot program.<br> <br> The district is also trimming its central office. “I have no tolerance for an overblown bureaucracy,” Emanuel said.<br> <br> But some Chicago aldermen say school officials should cut more spending before turning to homeowners and renters.<br> <br> CPS says the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about $84 more each year and that property-tax payers would face a separate levy for school construction.<br> <br> Asked whether the city could do anything to shift school funding away from the property tax, Emanuel stuck to the theme of his news conference: economic development. He said he was trying to generate revenue by encouraging job creation.</p></p> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 04:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-defends-proposed-property-tax-hike-schools-90330 Gary's property tax nightmare http://www.wbez.org/story/garys-property-tax-nightmare-89631 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-25/Holland Stansil of Gary and his son.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Cities and towns of every size and scope are scrambling to make ends meet lately. Some are raising property taxes to pay for services, things like keeping cops on the beat and educating kids.&nbsp;Gary, Indiana, is in that situation, but it’s in a tangle. First, the state won’t let the city raise property taxes and, what’s worse, a good chunk of the public’s not paying up anyway.</p><p>It’s that time of year when local governments in Northwest Indiana review their budgets to see what they can or can’t pay in the coming months.&nbsp;So, government entities - cities, schools, sanitary districts - are all playing a kind of budgeting game, and it goes like this:&nbsp;The county sends out property tax bills, and the governments hope to collect, but they don’t collect 100 percent of what’s due.</p><p>CAMPBELL: You can never really set the budget at the level that you’d like in order to provide the services for your students because you’re really not certain of what will occur.<br> <br> That’s Myrtle Campbell, superintendent of Gary’s public school system.<br> <br> CAMPBELL: You try to do an estimate to ensure that you’re not cutting those programs that are dear to our children and their individual needs.<br> <br> The problem is, the lower the property tax collection rate, the higher the risk to Gary’s own city government, its public schools, its libraries, even its sewers.&nbsp;The low collection rate is starving these governments.&nbsp;It’s one reason Gary’s laid off firefighters, garbage collection crews.. In all, some 400 city employees in the last five years. &nbsp;<br> <br> And the school district?&nbsp;Well, let’s say the low tax collection rate has got Campbell sweating this summer.<br> <br> CAMPBELL: Anytime it’s below the 80 percent or 90 percent, of course it does affect our tax-based funds. &nbsp;Then, dollars that are coming from that fund to support programs, then there’s a downsizing of those programs as well.<br> <br> Here’s the practical effect: This summer alone, Campbell’s had to ditch a music band camp and other activities involving science, health and mathematics.&nbsp;She’s made some layoffs already and she’s considering more because she’s dealing with a $13 million budget deficit.&nbsp;If the collection rate were high, she could breathe easier.<br> <br> But like it does in most years, the county is expected to collect less from Gary property owners than it does from any other city in the county.<br> <br> The exact figure is&nbsp;72.4 percent, the&nbsp;worst of any Indiana city or town.&nbsp;And, if you do a deeper dive into the numbers, you find nearly all businesses in Gary pay their taxes,&nbsp;but one in three Gary homeowners does not.<br> <br> This figure doesn’t surprise Darien Hayes of Gary’s Ambridge neighborhood, but it still disappoints her.<br> <br> DARIEN HAYES: You can’t live anywhere else close by and not pay your property taxes. The city entities and the municipalities just won’t let you do that but we let it happen here. They need to pay some measures in place to make them pay their fair share.<br> <br> Fifteen years ago, Darien and her husband Russell built their gem of a two-story brick home just a few blocks from a stretch of bordered up houses.<br> <br> What galls them is that they’re paying $4,000 a year in property taxes while living in Gary.&nbsp;If they lived in a more affluent city, they’d pay half as much and get more services.&nbsp;Darien Hayes says she sends her daughter out of Gary for summer activities, and they drive her 15 miles to school because the local elementary got shut down.<br> <br> DARIEN: Not happy. We’re not happy. RUSSELL: The city has constantly taken away services from us. So many different things that we do not get for the tax dollars that we pay.<br> <br> Darien’s husband Russell has a theory about why the county collects so little property tax in Gary.<br> <br> RUSSELL HAYES: If they don’t pay, they simply don’t pay. There are no things set in place to say if you don’t pay we’re going to take ownership of that property. They simply don’t do it. Apparently it’s not important enough around here.<br> <br> The full truth is a bit harder to get a handle on.&nbsp;Yes, county and city officials say there are property tax scofflaws, but economic figures suggest Gary has a fair number of property owners who can’t pay.&nbsp;Gary’s unemployment rate is 13.1 percent, or five percent higher than the rest of Indiana.<br> <br> STANSIL: If they don’t have the money or don’t have a job, what else can you do?<br> <br> Holland Stansil says he can sympathize with people who are out of jobs.&nbsp;After all, he's got some income from his railroad work, and he still has problems paying his share. &nbsp;<br> <br> STANSIL: The property taxes are too high in Gary. They are putting all the property taxes on the homeowners instead of on the companies like the steel mills. I couldn’t even pay the tax bill and that helped me get behind on my mortgage too.<br> <br> People have a lot of opinions about the property tax collection problem in Gary … but ultimately, the buck stops with one elected official:&nbsp;Lake County Treasurer John Petalas.<br> <br> Petalas says he doesn’t particularly like the fact that collections from Gary are so meager compared to other areas on his watch.&nbsp;He tries to collect, but his hands are tied.<br> <br> PETALAS: You mail the bill and if they don’t pay we fine them and we go through a collection process and we put judgments on their properties and that’s as far as the law lets us go.<br> <br> Petalas says he can hit non-compliant property owners with a penalty.&nbsp;But there’s a problem with that, too.&nbsp;The penalty doesn’t have teeth, it just gets tacked onto the original tax bill and makes non-payment worse.<br> <br> Right now, if a Lake County property owner wants to pay the original tax, the owner is still held liable for the penalty.&nbsp;Petalas figures some property owners would come forward and pay something, if only he could give them a break.<br> <br> PETALAS: The law does not allow any treasurer to waive those penalties.<br> <br> So Petalas lobbied Indiana State lawmakers to approve a one-time property tax penalty “amnesty.”&nbsp;The idea’s to grab at least some of the $129 million the county leaves on the table, much of which would go to Gary.<br> <br> PETALAS: The county and all the municipalities that are losing out on this money will be able to work with these funds that they’ve been missing for years.<br> <br> But Petalas’ efforts have largely been ignored by the powers that be in the Indiana state Senate.<br> <br> PETALAS: They wouldn’t even consider it. I got a phone call her from Luke Kenley and he basically humored me on the phone for about three minutes and that was the end of that.<br> <br> KENLEY: Gary has always seen itself as a free standing state within the state of Indiana I think.<br> <br> That’s Luke Kenley, chairman of the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee.&nbsp;Kenley’s a Republican from near Indianapolis. He’s famous for writing the law that caps Indiana property tax rates.&nbsp;That cap is now in the state’s constitution.<br> <br> Kenley says when it comes to a tax penalty amnesty, he says Lake County could do itself and Gary a favor by implementing an income tax.&nbsp;In other words, Gary should look for a fix closer to home.<br> <br> KENLEY: It would be helpful probably to have legislators from that specific area say look, here is our problem, here is a solution we’d like to pursue, and that really hasn’t happened yet on any extended basis.<br> <br> There’s no sense that the tax collection problem in the Democratic stronghold of Lake County, Indiana, and Gary specifically is going to get a lot of traction in the Republican-controlled Indiana State House.&nbsp;But Petalas isn’t giving up. &nbsp;<br> <br> PETALAS: I’ll try again next year but I think this legislature is a lot more difficult to work with than previous ones and I don’t know how far it would get. &nbsp;<br> <br> Petalas says, that’s why property tax season is such a demoralizing grind, and not just for Gary taxpayers, but for public officials who are supposed to serve them, too.</p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 03:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/garys-property-tax-nightmare-89631 Suburban voters largely reject tax increase referenda http://www.wbez.org/story/suburban-voters-say-no-tax-increases-schools-84792 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-05/enseignement_01.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A majority of residents in many of Chicago's suburban communities on Tuesday said 'no' to ballot proposals that sought to increase their tax rates. In communities from far northern Lake County to far southwestern Kendall County, most voters weren't in a spending mood.</p><p>Among the referenda that went down to defeat on Tuesday were proposals to raise more funds for school districts, including Winthrop Harbor School District 1, Prospect Heights School District 23, West Northfield Elementary School District 31, Highland Park/Deerfield Community Township High School District 113, Arbor Park Elementary School District 145, Mokena School District 159, and Lockport High School District 205.&nbsp; In each case, voters rejected plans to increase tax levies or to issue new bonds.</p><p>Voters in Oak Park and Wilmette, however, bucked the prevailing trend.&nbsp; They gave a thumbs up to proposals that asked to boost the amount of tax revenues available to their local elementary school districts.&nbsp;</p><p>Oak Park District 97 won approval for a plan to increase property taxes 3.8 percent.&nbsp; Supporters say the hike will help avoid cuts to staff, as well as cuts to arts and sports programs.</p><p>Wilmette School District 39, meanwhile, prevailed in its push to raise its tax rate. The victory now paves the way for an expected $6.4 million in additional revenues to cover projected budget deficits.</p><p>But elsewhere, other units of government which had hoped to boost their revenue streams came up empty handed.</p><p>Voters in Prospect Heights rejected two separate measures. One would've increased the city's sales tax rate by five-tenths of a percent; the other would've enabled the municipality to issue more than $5 million in bonds for police pensions.</p><p>Proposals to increase tax levies for the Palos Fire District and the Olympia Fields Park District also went down to defeat on Tuesday, as did a plan to create a local sales tax in Yorkville.</p><p>In west suburban Wheaton, residents pulled the curtain down on a proposal to use $150 thousand in city funds to restore the Grand Theater.&nbsp; And in Cicero, voters simply stopped the music altogether:&nbsp; they voted to ban neighborhood block parties, although the referendum is non-binding.</p></p> Wed, 06 Apr 2011 01:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/suburban-voters-say-no-tax-increases-schools-84792 Potential payday for firefighters highlights city's long-term pension problem http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-09/potential-payday-firefighters-highlights-citys-long-term-pension-problem <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Chicago fire Getty Scott Olson.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It looks like today might be a big payday for Chicago firefighters. Earlier this week the Finance Committee recommended ponying up nearly four years of back pay&mdash;some $94 million in total. Meanwhile as the city scrambles to find money for that bill, it faces an even greater financial IOU &mdash; municipal employee pension obligations.<br /><br />And the city is operating under a tight deadline. If funding of pension obligations doesn&rsquo;t increase by 2015, the city will have to raise property taxes, according to a new law signed by Governor Quinn.<br /><br />DePaul University Economics professor <a target="_blank" href="http://samson.comtech.depaul.edu/faculty/member/Thomas/Mondschean/S/">Thomas Mondschean</a> joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to break down the math.</p><p><em>Music Button: Capsula, &quot;Mindfulness Intention&quot;, from the CD Sense of a Drop, (Waveform) </em></p></p> Wed, 09 Feb 2011 15:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-09/potential-payday-firefighters-highlights-citys-long-term-pension-problem