for this month,
Last month we talked about the Multiplier. This month let's talk about your local taxing districts. Their budgets weigh heavily on how much money you will contribute to a taxing districts level of commerce
Governing boards of each taxing district develop yearly budgets and determine how much of their revenues will come from various sources, including property taxes.
Taxing districts project expenditures based on the revenues that are expected from all sources of non-tax revenue (state and federal revenue-sharing, interest, fees, etc.). The difference between the non-tax revenue and total amount needed to operate is usually the amount that the taxing district will ask to be raised from property taxes.
The amount raised from property taxes is called the "levy." When a taxing district levies, it must show a separate amount for each fund for which it is levying. Every taxing district must file its levy with the county clerk by the last Tuesday in December. Before filing its levy, the taxing district must follow the provisions of the Truth-in-Taxation Law.
Separate accounts are set up for various purposes into which specified amounts are deposited (e.g., a corporate fund, a bonds and interest fund, and other specialized funds, such as a fire protection fund, a library fund, or a street and bridge fund) and there is a process for public approval.
Tentative budgets are prepared showing proposed expenditures for each fund. A public hearing must be held and the tentative budget is on public display at least 30 days before the public hearing is held.
After the public hearing, the budget is adopted with any necessary changes and within 30 days the taxing district must give the county clerk a certified copy of the budget and an appropriation ordinance or resolution, and a certified estimate of revenues, by source that the district anticipates will be received in the following fiscal year. By law, the county clerk cannot bill for any taxes until these documents are received.
So often you hear that there is a cap on spending by the taxing district of 5%. Some mistakenly understand this to mean their taxes cannot exceed 5% of the previous year's tax. Not so. The 5% cap is on the levy. Taxing districts can levy more than 5% of the previous year's levy. Publication of the increase and a public hearing is required and the taxing district must explain the reasons for the proposed increase. At these hearings anyone can present testimony, if so inclined. Truth be told, you have to be a Daniel Webster to assuage their desire to increase spending. (Recall the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster by Steven Vincent Benet)
Fighting the Multiplier or contesting the Levy is like jousting with windmills. Paying close attention to your proposed assessments and availing yourself to all appeal opportunities before the multiplier or levies are determined are the only effective means to change your real estate tax.
Recently the 2012 real estate tax bills in DuPage, McHenry, Lake, Kane and Will counties were sent to property owners of record. If you had not received your bills put a call into your local treasurer's office and check on its status. Oftentimes changes in addresses do not get recorded in a timely manner.
In Cook County, we are anticipating the second installment of the 2012 tax bill to be published on June 1st 2013. Incidentally, the state wide multiplier for Cook County was determined to be 2.8056, a slight decrease from 2.9706. Don't start clapping yet. We don't know how the levies have influenced the local taxing rate which is another story to tell next month.