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Potential Property Tax Legislation To Level The Playing Field Between Communities

If you’re wondering what some legislators are proposing in the Illinois General Assembly for the current legislative session, they’re proposing legislation for statewide property tax reform.

On Wednesday, February 7th, state representatives hailing from Geneva and Mokena, along with a former representative from Plainfield, unveiled their proposed plan.

HB 4866 would attempt to make school funding more fair by offering property tax grants to economically disadvantaged school districts with extremely high tax rates in order to limit how high property tax rates can be set in those townships.

Their central argument revolves around the notion that exorbitant property taxes contribute to the creation of what they term “opportunity deserts,” exacerbating inequality, particularly affecting minority communities.  Their proposed legislation aims to enable schools in certain regions to access educational grants, facilitating a more equitable distribution of school tax funds. This redistribution is seen as crucial for underprivileged communities, especially in areas where low population density limits tax revenues, resulting in depleted resources due to insufficient sales tax and other revenue streams.

A key comparison highlighted by the legislators is between communities like Winnetka, situated north of Chicago along the lakefront, which boasts significantly lower property tax rates, and areas like Harvey, south of Chicago, burdened by higher property tax rates. This discrepancy, they argue, stifles economic growth in places such as Harvey, where the high cost of living and conducting business is compounded by steep property taxes and hinders local services and educational institutions.

Former state representative Mark Batinick of Plainfield emphasized the economic infeasibility of sustaining growth in areas burdened by disproportionately high property taxes. “It’s economically feasibly impossible when you’re charging four times the property tax in those areas for growth to come for people, to bring growth to those areas,” Batinick remarked during a news conference. He expressed incredulity at the stark disparity in property tax rates across different parts of the state, denouncing it as unconscionable.

House Bill 4866, according to Batinick, is designed to address this issue without significantly impacting the state budget. The proposed legislation aims to reduce school levies in distressed areas by up to 50%, providing relief to taxpayers and potentially spurring economic revitalization in disadvantaged communities.