A telling result to PTELL efforts in Madison County

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Report to the People No. 132 by County Board District 3 representative Phil Chapman.

The purpose of this report is to provide information and to aid in government transparency.

Wages resolution: I voted for the resolution on Aug. 19, which passed 17-11. Figures show the COVID-19 pandemic affected expected 2020 sales tax revenues and fees. Preliminary estimates indicate Madison County will be down about $3 million in sales taxes and approximately $400,000 in circuit clerk, county clerk and gas tax fees in 2020. This trend is expected to remain in 2021. Cancelling the previously proposed COLA increase for non-bargaining unit employees is meant to balance the 2021 budget. We hope to ensure receipts match expenses. This resolution is expected to save approximately $1 million, helping us to cut expenses and help balance the 2021 budget.

Last-minute PTELL bid: A last-minute effort by PTELL proponents to place it on the fall ballot at a special meeting overwhelmingly failed. Some board members thought proponents sprung this request on them without working with them or even giving them a “heads-up,” leaving them inadequate time for research. If true, this tactic wasn’t a page out of “How to Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

During the PTELL brouhaha, much was said about board members missing the first “special meeting.” Most of those complaining the most hailed from home-ruled districts whose taxes won't be impacted by PTELL. Apparently political operatives want representation (to vote) on PTELL without the taxation PTELL will cause.  

Research shows misconceptions remain:  A recent newspaper headline proclaimed PTELL a “tax cap.”  PTELL isn’t a tax cap. PTELL only moderates tax increases if certain conditions are met. (See PTELL: Fund Max Rate and Statute Reference PTAX -1080). Taxes rise under PTELL. Second, a recent political fundraiser flier which called PTELL at tax cut is inaccurate. PTELL doesn’t cut taxes.  Understand your taxes under PTELL will go up if your representatives raise the budget. (See ww2.illinois.gov/rev/Questions And Answers/Pages 331.aspx) In fact, every county that approved PTELL saw immediate increases in special district taxing rates! Expect to pay more not less under PTELL. Issue three: There is confusion if school backdoor referendums remain possible under PTELL.  A PTELL proponent at the County Board meeting stated, “PTELL will end back-door referendums,” then backtracked, saying “it will essentially end back-door referendums;” then under questioning apparently admitted PTELL won’t stop school districts from using back-door referendums. (Hear the county’s special meeting tapes to verify.) The state of Illinois 2013 Manual for PTELL verifies back-door referendums are possible. Schools account for 71 percent of my property tax; how about yours?

Given all the false hype surrounding PTELL, as they used to say on the ‘60s TV show “To Tell the Truth,” “Will the real PTELL please stand up?”

A better solution: What seems a better solution to take the burden off residential property owners? Freeze property taxes. If  binding referenda allowed voters to freeze property taxes across all the county (not just unincorporated areas) this would be a start toward real reform. PTELL allowed taxes to rise everywhere it was instituted. What a bad idea. We need to freeze and then try to lower current property taxes. (See Erik Randolph, Ted Dabrowski, and John Klinger article entitled; Growing Out of Control: Property Taxes Put Increased Burden on Illinois Tax Payers by the Illinois Policy Institute.)  

Let’s not act like lemmings rushing to the sea and rush to place PTELL on the ballot. Instead, let’s carefully use this time to consider better solutions. Why? Given the pandemic, many people are really struggling. People lost jobs, got laid off, or are on unemployment. Retired people or others struggling on limited income don't need higher special services taxes created by PTELL. Rich folk may be lured by promises of taxes being slowed (remember not cut or capped) in 5 to 7 years, but there is no proof this will ever happen. Randolph, Drambowski, and Klinger stated, “PTELL is ineffective in reducing the property tax burden.” Maybe the rich can ‘take a big special taxes hit’ hoping (praying) taxes will slow later, but poorer folks can't.   

Phil Chapman


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