Lake County Board members disagrees with proposed statewide property tax hike

By Karen Kidd
Aug 27, 2018

An outgoing county board member says he's against a proposed a statewide property tax that could raise levies by almost 50 percent for the next 30 years, though he voted against placing an question about the measure on the ballot for Lake County voters to consider in November's election.

"I voted against putting the question on the Ballot since it will have no impact," Lake County Board District 14 representative Vance D. Wyatt told the Lake County Gazette. "As I stated on the floor at our August County Board Meeting, I believe that it will pass overwhelming and I think it's just a political maneuver."

His opposition to having the question on the ballot doesn't mean he supports the proposal behind it, Wyatt asserted.

"I don't agree with the proposal by the Federal Reserve as an avenue to solve the state's pension issues," he said. "Illinois has had major issues with spending over the years, which has caused unnecessary burdens on local governments that rely mostly on property taxes."

The tax burden carried by Lake County residents is already high, Wyatt said.

"In the 14th District which I represent, the property tax rate, for the most part, falls as follows," he said. "North Chicago 18 percent, Waukegan 16 percent, Lake Bluff 12 percent, Park City 11 percent, and Gurnee 10 percent. My district happens to have some of the highest property taxes not only in Lake County but in the state of Illinois. Further increasing the tax rate not only at the local level but now at the state level would cause further economic damage to our community."

The Lake County Board voted earlier this month to place the non-binding referendum for a ban on a statewide property tax on the ballot for Lake County residents in November's general election.

Wyatt, a Democrat and a CVS Health financial analyst, was appointed in June 2017 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime board member Audrey Nixon. Wyatt lost his bid for a full term in the seat during the Democrat primary in March to former board member Angelo D. Kyle. Kyle is running unopposed in November's General Election.

Lake County's 14th District includes Park City and portions of North Chicago, Waukegan Gurnee and Lake Bluff.

The Lake County ballot question follows a proposal by the Chicago Civic Federation and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in April when a Chicago Federation speaker proposed an across-the-state tax levy. The tax would be a special property assessment estimated at about 1 percent of actual property value each year for the next three decades. That special property assessment would be in addition to current property taxes Illinois.

It's a proposal that Illinoisans cannot afford, Wyatt said.

"The citizens and Business can't afford this a new property tax from the state," he said. "Of course, we should be looking at ways that could cut cost at the local level. Every year there is talk about getting rid of townships. This could save myself about $60 on my tax bill. But, if we had a legitimate discussion on consolidation of school districts we would see a much larger share of savings."

The first step toward a better solution would be to address the line item that takes "the largest share" or property taxes, Wyatt said.

"Schools account for 55 percent to 70 percent of the tax bill around Lake County," he said. "Looking at eliminating some of the 52 different school districts that don't always match up to local city and village boundaries would be the kick we all need."

Wyatt said he understood the apprehension that idea could cause school board members.

"I share that same apprehension when you discuss going to a county library or park system since I served as both a library trustee and park commissioner," he said. "But, we all have to admit that we have to do something before no one can afford to live in our community.”