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Kendall County Property Tax Revolt

You want change? It doesn't stop at the voting booth - it just begins there.

The taxpayers of Kendall County have spoken. Nearly three-fourths of the voting public has said that the raising of property taxes needs to stop. Although some feel that society demands more services - there is a large portion understanding there is a limit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have compassion for those less fortunate but it does say the time has come to analyze what people want and what people can afford.

Some have tried to label the KCPTR group as lepers while others have just referred to us as their crazy uncle - simply ignore them and they will go away. I’m not convinced either is correct. I think it is obvious that taxpayers are at the tipping point and we expect the leaders to find solutions. The leaders ask the taxpayers to step up and give them the solutions. The taxpayers simply say, “We elected you – you wanted the job – now give us some options.” What’s so hard for these leaders to understand?

Most of the leaders say the taxpayers are unrealistic. There is no way to cut 20% without destroying life as we know it. Usually the leaders make dramatic statements such as: “It’s for the children.”, “Less police means more crime.”, “Without bike paths, Rec Centers, and Park Boards our kids won’t have anything to do.” and other blanket threats. Many of us know better but most people seem to buy into this rhetoric out of the leaders.

What I have found over the years through experience is that most people are glad to have some of us champion their causes. What most people don’t seem to realize is that the champions for their causes aren’t much different than the leaders they protest to. Leaders and champions both want to do what the people want. It is in the “balance” that is where the arguments begin. The leaders and the champions both get tired after awhile. There is only so much energy available. Many of the leaders are younger and wanting to make their mark on society. Many champions are older but were the leaders when they were younger. The major difference is that the champions have “been there – done that” and realize the mistakes they made and are trying to influence the young leaders to do a better job this time around.

I read an email from another champion today. This champion puts my current feelings into perspective and asks the body of the KCPTR group to step forward. Here is a sample of that email:

“Can you get a large group of taxpayers to speak their minds at the 5:30 PM Oswego Park Board meeting this coming Thursday, November 15?  20 or more would sure make an impact. The public is invited to speak for 5 minutes each, at the very start of the meeting (5:30 PM sharp). It is held at South Point, 810 Preston Lane (adjacent to & south end of Southbury Elementary school), Oswego, Illinois 60543. The 2013 tax levy is the main and most important topic for that Board meeting. I would be happy to discuss this matter ahead of time with anyone who wishes to do so…I look forward to a strong citizen turnout next Thursday.  Voting for the tax levy decrease is one thing--ensuring elected officials follow that mandate is another.  I'm offering a great opportunity for voters to start implementing that mandate, not just to forget about it after they leave the voting booth.”

So it seems the leaders complain that the citizens don’t attend meetings so their absence proves the status quo is acceptable. The champions plead for these same people to attend the meetings to prove the status quo is unacceptable. Who is correct? Like watching the storm hit the east coast a few weeks ago, the water level is key. For some, the water kept them from taking their kids to soccer practice. For some, it kept them from their jobs and incomes. For some, it meant bailing water from their basements. For some, it meant wading out to safety from their destroyed home. For some, it meant treading water until someone stepped up to save them. For some, who couldn’t swim, it meant losing their lives. For all, it meant pain and suffering because those government services were overwhelmed and couldn’t react. We have become a society who seems to be incapable of managing our own lives. We expect someone else to do it. We don’t always want someone else to take care of our problems - we demand it.

As I read that email from a taxpayer champion I realized my own energy has waned. I realize that if the people expect change to happen then they better step forward and demand it. The energy of a half dozen people is very limited. The energy of hundreds can make change. The ideas from hundreds can change the course of history.

For those who say it can’t be done let me give two basic ideas that could make a huge tax reduction but not curtail services dramatically. One is to update our education systems to utilize technology rather than adding expensive bricks and mortar. Take the upper-class honor role students and trust them to telecommute rather than attend daily school. They have shown for 10-12 years that they are ready for this. Is this a leap of faith? Yes but these kids are capable. Can we reduce teachers for this peer group? Probably. Within a year or so these same students will be shipped off to a college already versed in telecommuting and large class groups. Does home-schooling work? Many have found it works great. So why not give these people and Seniors a break from these taxes? A second concept is to reduce police forces. Could municipalities and county police forces form mutual aid groups? Fire departments did for years. Cities and counties working together for the benefit of people – what a novel idea! The only thing holding them back from having the same service with much less manpower is the protection of budgets and protection of jobs and the power over those jobs by managers and unions.

What reducing tax burdens boils down to simply is uncertainty of funding. With uncertainty the leaders add more to budgets in case funding doesn’t live up to expectations. If funding does come through they find a way to spend that extra windfall and add even more the next year because the people expect it. It has become a vicious cycle that nobody seems to want to break - nobody but those who can’t afford it anymore.

Seems the leaders and the champions are both looking for the same thing. People must step up and take ownership or the taxpayer will get exactly what they are asking for – the status quo.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MBA Cadidate November 13, 2012 at 02:23 AM
This is whats wrong in America today: everyone should get a blue ribbon for trying. Don't have to know anything, or produce results, just do something that makes you feel good
Mark A Johnson November 13, 2012 at 01:32 PM
@Kevin - There is and has been a plan since day one. @MBA Candidate - Please note I corrected the spelling error on your name. You might want to know that for one of your future MBA courses. As for producing results, we are tracking budget/ levy reductions right now. I'm sure we will report something by January after the levies are approved and submitted. We have had most boards agree to work with us. As in any negotiation - if you don't ask - you won't get.
David Edelman November 13, 2012 at 01:52 PM
What an awful post by Mr. Johnson above about mental health and people posting their thoughts. This social media outlet is for just that, expressing your views, respectfully! I Cannot believe the Patch allowed that one to stand! Though I do not agree with much of what Mr. Johnson says, I appreciate his passion for his cause. You lose a lot credibility in making such statements Mark! I REALLY wish the patch would require full and real names to be posted as well. It would cut down on a lot these conversations I believe.
Ralph November 13, 2012 at 02:18 PM
http://oswego.patch.com/articles/aquatic-park-results-from-2012-oswegoland-park-district Maybe Mr. Johnson and his "champion" can get 20% of the life guards fired or this pool closed for the month of July to cut that litle piece of our taxes that go to the park district? My taxes to parks went down last year. Did yours?
Tim November 13, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Personally, I would prefer zero censorship of any posts. Leaving Mr. Johnsons post up, gives recorded evidence of his views/tactics for everyone to read, whenever they can. More importantly, it keeps a record for the board members he is claiming to be dealing with, to read. If he shows no respect to posts that fill in the gaps of his understanding, the various boards will be that much quicker to dismiss him(and rightfully so). Mark, being uninformed is not a negative. How you respond to it is, and that is what people will notice. You chose to make a personal attack on someone who pointed out that you were uninformed by not using a complete understanding of the situation to come to your conclusions. You should have posted a spreadsheet about how YOU cut your personal finances(less taxes) 20%, and shown it as a roadmap to governing bodies that it can indeed be done. I'm betting that you actually have not even cut your own budget by even half the amount of what you are demanding of others, you certainly have not shown any evidence that you have.
Mark A Johnson November 13, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Actually I will make this my last post on this BLOG since defending positions with anonymous people is ALWAYS a losing proposition. To your point of board members having discussions with the KCPTR group - I will leave that up to you to disprove this. These boards/individuals know who is involved. Everything I have stated can and will be verified over the next couple months. And finally about the 20% of personal finances. I will not discuss my personal life out in the public arena but I will tell you that I have cut my EXPENSES by over 20% just this year and I have plans for even more by year end. Believe it or not, you can take that to the bank...I am doing just that...
mike ellison November 13, 2012 at 05:49 PM
So much misinformation here. First of all, an SSA is not a governing body as used in the context of the referendum any more than any creditor is a governing body. Secondly, it's ridiculous to think that a 20% reduction in taxes equates to a 20% reduction in services. I would bet that there's easily 20% of waste and 20% lack of effort by many government employees that can be used to offset this reduction. Layoff the employees who aren't contributing 100% towards their job and make the remaning employees take over their responsibilities. You know, just like private industry has done since this recession began. And in private industry the remaining employees are worried about losing their job because of the economy, so they're very aware of having to be extra productive in order to not lose their job. A big problem is the attitude among gov't employees that they have a lifetime job, and that attitude is reflected in their productivity.
Tim November 13, 2012 at 06:11 PM
You would 'bet' there is 20% waste? Yet another reason why people don't take you seriously. You don't 'bet' on things like this, you gather your data, and then PROVE your assertion. This is the same kind of 'betting' that house proices would go up forever, that left your fellow residents with the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Obviously, the financial accumen in the majority of residents in the county is not high enough to be making these types of decisions Instead, we hear vague plans about reducing taxes, with no actual plans or data to support these claims. As for SSA's; (35 ILCS 200/27-15) Sec. 27-15. Governing body. The corporate authorities of the municipality or county shall be the governing body of the special service area. Which debt collector is governed by the county board again? Again, you lack an understanding of what you are talking about. You are never going to be taken seriously until you learn how this actually operates. You keep saying how 'bad taxes are', yet for some reason Kendall County is not the highest taxed counties. It isn't even in the top 10. Maybe the problem is you after all, and not the county.
Dale Luebke November 13, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I switched my auto insurance companies (same coverage) and saw my annual premiums go from $3,800 per year to $2,400 per year. I shop at Aldi and easily save 30 - 40% off of my food bills. We buy our clothes from Kohl's (with coupons), T.J. Maxx, Marshall's instead of the higher scale clothing stores. With rising expenses and salary increases a thing of the past; you have to make personal finance changes that you normally wouldn't make. The company that I work for has reduced O&M costs by 40%; the other option was to shut down. Two ways of reducing costs were by defering work (assume more risk) or reducing staff (either remaining employees assume more responsibilty or low value work gets eliminated). Why shouldn't our taxing bodies be held to the same standard? Talking about the 20% reduction and how that translates to streets only getting plowed 4 out of 5 times or police calls only getting answered 4 out of 5 times; is the assumption here that staffing is to the point where everybody is busy 100% of the time? Are employees doing work that adds value or are they performing low value jobs? When the winter is less severe than budgeted, what happens to the savings from labor and material (salt)? Much smarter people than me are on here so I am not going to go any further. Just wanted to state that cutting costs, while not comfortable, is possible. I have been there from both a personal and professional level and in these cases not cutting costs wasn't an option.
Benjamin November 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
The corporate authority would be Pulte, Vanguard, etc., not the mortgage holder/debt collector of the home. But yes, the SSA is considered separate from the county taxes.
Benjamin November 13, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Sec. 27-15. Governing body. The corporate authorities of the municipality OR county shall be the governing body... notice the "or county"... not as clear as one might think.
Benjamin November 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I love that park. I just wonder if/why I'm paying taxes toward it yet I'm not considered a resident.
Tim November 13, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Yes, I did notice the 'or county' part. That means that depending if your area is located within the municipal boundaries of a city, or is outside those boundaries(the county). 'corporate' does not mean business. It means the incorporated entity, which in this case will either be Kendall County, Yorkville, or Oswego depending on where you live. It is NOT the builder of your home. The fact remains, that this ballot measure directly contradicts the language in every single SSA. When you put a question on the ballot that says every levy, it actually means every one. If they wanted to be specific about the details, instead of just rushing through a nonsensical ballot question, they should have done their due diligence well before it was placed on the ballot. This shows the the organizers of this did not even do basic research. And yes, it is a fact, no matter how much Mark wants to disagree with it. Shooting from the hip based on emotional triggers is EXACTLY what caused your mess, and all I see here is a continuation of that same mentality. I'll give you one guess how that will turn out.(hint: It won't be any different at all) Why should anyone trust the fiscal judgement of a group, that could not even be bothered to know the details of what it is talking about? I'm ALL FOR cuts, but only if they are intelligently presented. What has been presented here, and on the ballot, is not being intelligently presented. It is nothing more than feel good nonsense.
Benjamin November 13, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Yes. You are right about the corporate authority. I was on a different track for a bit. But everyone that buys a home in the county enters an agreement with the county when it comes to taxes. Yes we agreed to the SSA. But that doesn't mean that everyone in an SSA has to sit back and accept whatever is handed them. I disagree with the 20% of everything idea, but I agree with the idea of fiscal responsibility and the right of citizens to hold the county accountable.
Tim November 13, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Benjamin, It actually does mean the residents have to sit back and take it. That is EXACTLY what they agreed to. If these residents do not like the fact that they did not understand what they signed, how does it suddenly become the responsibility of every other homeowner that is not in an SSA? The unfortunate fact, is the only legal way they can rectify this is to move to another location without a SSA. They made a bad choice for sure, but the answer here is not to make MORE bad choices. The language in the SSA's in Kendall county specifically state that the levy will go up between 1%-3% each year, every year, depending on the specific SSA. Over 10 years, that adds up pretty quick. Between a 10%-30% increase in the levy. The levy will not be reduced, and it can not be reduced without dissolving the SSA entirely. Mark would have had MUCH more support if he took the time to work through this to a solid solution, instead of just the reactionary actions they have taken so far. I just can not get behind an organization that not only doesn't understand the basic tenants of levies, but has offered absolutely no specifics at all. Everyone 'wants' lower taxes, but nobody wants to do the actual work to figure out the specifics because it is boring and tedious with little short-term reward.
Benjamin November 13, 2012 at 10:36 PM
No Tim. We may have to accept the SSA. But that is a separate tax and a separate issue from the county taxes. Accepting the SSA and accepting whatever is given us is not the same thing. As far as a detailed plan, a Patch blog is hardly the place. The public hearings tonight might be.
Rennetta November 14, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Please note: The SSA's that are currently being levied in Kendall County are within municipalities. It is not through the decisions of the Kendall County Board that these SSA's are collecting funds. Lakewood Springs, Windett, Bristol Bay, Grand Reserve, the various Raintree neighborhoods were all built/funded by the sale of bonds. The cities of Yorkville & Plano made these arrangements. The Village of Montgomery has Lakewood Creek. The current levies for these SSA's are for the purpose of the respective municipalities making their bond payments. I'm certainly no attorney, however, I'll say I know of no mechanism that allows anyone to arbitrarily reduce such debt payments. State Law charges the county with handling the property tax cycle. The County is among the taxing bodies on the property tax bill. However the County has no direct control over how much money the various [other] entities/taxing bodies listed on your property tax bill say they need to operate.
Walt Hines November 15, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Dale I've done the same thing! After loosing my full time job of many years I know work 3 jobs making 50% less than I did. You have to be creative but to say you can't cut is bologna. I still have my home, food on the table and clothing on my back but it's done with a bottom line and lighter wallet. Mark as far as the people not happy with you, I say too bad. You did something that requires your personal time and actually getting involved, something most people wouldn't do unless it meant a paycheck for them. It's about time people stand up for what they believe in and you actually got off the couch and did something about it.
YorkVillain November 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I for one am tired of you old cheapskates! It was your generation that brought this upon us and yet you offer no solutions only complaints. When one of your own has been fleecing everyone on the city council with her health insurance entitlement for years and you have no stomach to stand up to her, you bring shame to your cause, because its the same old song and dance that people have used when attempting to shape public policy since the beginning of time. I'll gladly cut yours but don't you dare touch mine.
Kibitzer November 17, 2012 at 01:57 AM
I just saw your comment, YorkVillain. And I'm sure you speak for a zillion others who feel the same way. Yeah, I'm old. And, Yeah, I'm pretty conservative about money. I follow in the footsteps of a zillion others who feel or felt, (as they've since died), the same way. A zillion others who paved the way over the decades for so many today who can now scream that they need and want stuff. You who want more and more, are spoiled, and self-centered. I am tired of you all protesting and screaming about how we who might "make do", are stopping progress. I can hardly make a cogent statement at this point. My elderly, conservative brain just can't figure out how to get through to obviously self-indulgent people.
Jake Delrose November 17, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Let's all try to agree on several points here everyone: 1. We all do see a need to reduce taxes. 2. We all see a need to trim areas in government but we cannot agree to what. 3. We need to start getting issues straightened out on a state level, not county. County only has a certain amount that can be controlled by taxpayers, without legislative actions or changing who runs Springfield, nothing will get changed and your tax bills will continue to increase. 4. Watch where the largest percentage of taxpayer dollars go and keep that department in check. (The schools) That's why it is so important to not let one party control Springfield as we have seen for the past what 10+ years now?? Mr. Johnson's referendum about the 20% cut in the county government has no teeth to enforce it. But.. This is not about the 20%, the message shows that people voted there is a need to reduce across the board because their households have to reduce and the government needs to do the same. It's a difficult task. We have real estate laws in Illinois that would make you sick to understand on how much the taxpayer is on the hook. The schools automatically get percentage increases in real estate taxes and the home owner can do very little to stop it. Image how many other taxes are out there that cause the same issue..
Katy K November 21, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Wow! Well said for the first time.....
Alex Keown November 21, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Comment deleted for spam.
Dave November 27, 2012 at 12:01 AM
The village board lied to the residents about this project all along. A a village meeting several months ago the board said they were against the low income apartment complex called Mill Street Station. After doing a bit of investigating, I learned that the village planned to approve this low income apartment project from the beginning. In fact the village has even given the developer a discount on their water rate! Who will make up the difference? Of course, it's you and me. I will have more to say after some of my FOIA requests are processed by the State of Illinois. The point here is, as my house value goes down my taxes continue to rise. We need accountability in all of our govermental agencies.
The Batman May 03, 2013 at 02:32 AM
How many residents have lost there home because they could not pay the outrageous taxes? Anyone have answers? I for one am moving out of this decrepit county and state.
Kibitzer May 03, 2013 at 03:40 AM
I hear you. And my spouse and I are talking about getting out, too. Problem is our age and some health issues. Not so easy to make a move. Have a house built in 1950, have 842 sq. ft. of living space. We bought when things were a bit high, never thinking how bad it'd get. We didn't want a large house to take care of. And our tax bill came today, saying we owe a whole pile of money! Don't have the energy to protest, but may head to WI just to look for another place and then sell this for whatever we can get.
s.kenn May 10, 2013 at 11:42 PM
If the infrastructure is not being done and nobody even large banks don't want to buy up the empty lots because of all the red tape that goes into bldg. there why do we continue having a SSA tax? Where is this money going that we keep paying towards? How about new homeowners that want to buy these homes now why should they agree to something that was written a long time ago and don't agree with the original agreement? Shouldn't it be re-written? If it's not a government entity then why is it against the law to change the law by those who are abided by this contract?
s.kenn May 10, 2013 at 11:43 PM
agreement or contract!
s.kenn May 10, 2013 at 11:44 PM
So nobody should move to a SSA subdivision because it's like shooting yourself in the foot?
s.kenn May 11, 2013 at 01:47 AM
What about most of our tax dollars are going to the school's about 70% but most goes to the teacher's pensions!

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