Lake County Board approves advisory referendum about potential statewide property tax

Frank Abderholden
~4 minutes

The Lake County Board passed a resolution to put a non-binding referendum on the November ballot asking residents if they support amending the state Constitution to ban the implementation of a statewide property tax.

Board members argued over whether or not that type of referendum was necessary given that no such tax proposal is pending, but an article in Crain’s Chicago Business in May reported that three members of the Federal Reserve Board had made such a suggestion as a way to fund state pension liabilities.

Voters will be asked to answer the following question: “Shall the Illinois General Assembly amend the State Constitution to ban the creation of a new statewide property tax?” Underneath the question is the statement “Ballot for banning the creation of a statewide property tax.”

“We’ve had two changes here at this meeting,” said Sandy Hart, District 13, at Tuesday’s board meeting. “I’m concerned this has been brought forth haphazardly.”

The referendum was discussed at a committee meeting last week.

“It’s a clear violation of our rules,” she said. “There’s been no bill introduced. You’re putting things on the ballot that was taken out of thin air, and I have a real problem with that.”

Paul Frank, District 11, said the board’s longstanding policy is not to create referendum questions unless they have to do with the County Board.

“This is not germane to county business,” he said. “It’s based on a newspaper article. It’s kinda of a joke here, and we are setting a bad precedent.”

Michael Danforth, District 17, defended the measure saying, “This allows constituents a voice. Let’s give them the opportunity to speak to Springfield. This also speaks to the taxing districts. People are paying enough taxes.”

Judy Martini, District 5, said she has no problem with putting the referendum on the ballot. “I want to make it clear the County Board is not voting to support. We’re just putting it on the ballot. We are not taking a position on this.

“Let the voters decide,” she continued. “Democracy works best when you empower voters.”

Sidney Mathias, District 20, said he doesn’t believe this opens the door to more referendums, nor break the board’s policy of only having referendums that have to do with county business.

“We do levy a property tax and they made an issue of property taxes,” he said, referring to the state’s Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, which is also mentioned in the resolution for the referendum. “We can debate this endlessly.”

Steve Carlson, District 7, said he felt the referendum was meaningless. In fact, he added, “It’s an expense to taxpayers to put it on the ballot. This is a waste of time folks.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s politics. It’s meaningless,” he said.

Carlson said by circumventing the boards policy and rules not to have referendum questions that are not germane to Lake County government, board members are opening themselves up to others, like questions about Second Amendment rights or building a wall along the Mexican border.

“Do we vote on that?” he asked.

Both Mary Ross Cunningham, District 9, and Vance D. Wyatt, District 14, said the referendum will have no impact.

“I’m voting no either way,” Cunningham said. “It’s not going to stop taxes from going up.”

Wyatt said, “This is not going to freeze property taxes. It’s not going to do anything. It’s not going to solve anything with our property tax bills.”

The measure passed by a vote of 11 to 7.