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Residents express concern over property tax assessments at public forum

Homer Township Public Library was full of residents—many concerned about property tax assessments—at the May 10 forum hosted by Will County Board Members Steve Balich (R-Homer Glen) and Mike Fricilone (R-Homer Glen) in conjunction with the Will County Supervisor of Assessments Office.

The Office hosts a number of events throughout the year to assist residents in understanding how their property tax bills are calculated and learn what options exist to help constituents save money. The work of the Will County Supervisor of Assessments Office was not totally clear to those in attendance for the forum.

“We don’t actually go out and assess each individual property,” said Cindy Harris, a deputy supervisor of assessments for the Will County Supervisor of Assessments Office. “There [are] 24 townships. The township assessors in each township go out and assess the property by doing a mass appraisal technique.”

Typically, the assessors don’t go out and look at each individual property every year to assess, according to Harris. They value property for tax purposes by determining the fair market value of your home and use this information to calculate your assessment. The most accurate information on file is available for viewing by visiting the assessor’s office or the Supervisor of Assessments website.

Harris recognizes that property taxes can serve as a very popular—or unpopular—topic, and said it is the intent of the Will County Supervisor of Assessments Office to make sure the county, as a whole, is assessed according to the statutory of limitations for assessments.

Each year, taxing districts go to the Will County Clerk’s Office with a budget. They are entitled to what they received the prior year, plus the consumer price index, or 5 percent—whichever is lower.

“Unfortunately, the levies are not something that we control in our office,” Harris said. “The levies are [controlled by] your taxing districts.”

A number of constituents raised concerns for their local taxing bodies and questioned they’re ability to make decisions without the public’s knowledge or input.

That’s not how it works, however. Elected officials are voted in to serve the taxpayers as representatives for the district they serve.

If the local taxing authorities look to approve salary increases, officials are often met by little to no opposition at public meetings to help curve the spending powers they’re afforded, Balich said.

“If the people don’t go to these meetings when they’re looking for the raises and complain, they’re going to just keep doing it,” he said.

That’s not the case for the Will County Board. At that level, tax rates went down two years in a row. Other factors could create spikes in the property tax bills constituents receive.

“We’re on the [Will] County Board, and on the County Board, we have voted no raises the six years we’ve been on the board,” Fricilone said.

Balich tried to further the point raised by Fricilone.

“We eliminated pensions for all County Board members,” he said.

Fricilone wants it to be clear that not all raises are unnecessary.

“Now, I will say this, though, when it comes to taxing bodies; everybody wants nicer parks [and] everybody wants police protection,” Fricilone said. “You have to understand there is a cost to that.”

Fricilone said no matter what happens, there are going to be raises, even if they’re small. The effort to stop the rise in property taxes remains in the hands of taxpayers to stand before their elected officials to reduce government misuse of taxpayer dollars, he said.

A number of residents were concerned about their property tax bills rising, including Homer Glen’s Jean Olszewski.

“We’ve lived here for 29 years, and my kids all went to school here and everything,” she said. “Our district spent the least amount of money on the schools than like anywhere, and our taxes stayed pretty low for a long time. All of a sudden, it went up and up and up.”

Olszewski said something has to give.

“We need to get to the point where we have to stop the waste,” she said. “I mean, there’s just too much waste and everything. Why [did] the schools manage to be able to teach the children for a lot less? I know the cost of living has gone up, but I don’t think as much as they’re saying.”

Olszewski added she found the forum to be helpful and informative.

“The school boards, see, that’s [one thing I need to pay closer attention to],” she said. “I never go to those meetings, and I probably should. I did learn a little bit about what else to look at. I don’t go to enough of the other meetings. Like [Balich] was saying, you have to go meetings [where] they’re going to be talking about raises. You do need to go to that and keep up with that.”