Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas is taking initiative to make local government more transparent. Transparency is a powerful tool for Cook County residents to keep their local government in check. The news is a bit more dismal because Cook County residents will be receiving the second-installment of their property tax bill sooner and the price they will be paying continues to increase. In an effort to better help Cook County residents, Treasurer Pappas is publishing information explaining and exposing the reality of rising property tax bills.
From Sunday’s Chicago Tribune:
County Treasurer Maria Pappas is publishing an unprecedented mother lode of information about these local governments in 138-page sections that accompany the print editions of Sunday’s Tribune and other Chicago-area newspapers. Online readers who follow the steps below also can learn the answers to questions such as:
• How aggressively has each of the 12 to 20 local governments on my tax bill been raising its tax collections every year?
• By what percentage did each of these tax levies jump between 2001 and 2010 — and how does that compare to the 23.4 percent rise of inflation over those same years?
• How much debt burden has each government’s spending and borrowing created for local taxpayers? How much in unfunded pension obligations?
• By what percentage has each government been raising employees’ salaries?
Taken together, Pappas says, the information helps citizens answer one overriding question: Why, exactly, do my property tax bills keep rising?
According to a study by John Nothdurft, director of government relations at the Heartland Institute, all taxing districts within Cook County have increased property taxes a combined 48% in the past decade. So why do property tax bills in Cook County continue to rise despite stagnating and dropping home prices?
Nothdurft adds that, “The property tax burden will skyrocket in the next decade, despite stagnant or declining home prices, because of growing public pension and benefit obligations.” The growth of local governments and their indulgence to tax during a recession should make taxpayers more active and aware; hopefully leading to a change in leadership and in policy.