Real estate taxes up – city down

Spring so far has been lousy. With all the craziness going on at the Federal, State, and local levels of government, I think it has affected the weather. I’m getting just a little edgy. And what do I get in the mail? My real estate taxes. This investment is probably going to work out about as well as my other ones.

So here’s to the biggest rip-off in the world of taxes – the real estate taxes. Happy Flub-A-Dub.

The great American dream of owning a home is rapidly becoming a nightmare. Looking over my tax bills from 1980-present, it appears they have increased at about the same percentage rate as the population of Galesburg and Knox County has decreased. Now, if two plus two equaled four, one would think in a town losing population that the real estate taxes would be going down. But, when government is involved, two plus two seldom equals four. I’ve had various officials try to explain the real estate tax to me over my ten years of county board service, and its never made any sense to me beyond the first two sentences, which were usually, "Hi," and "How are you?"

As it works out, as business bails out of a community, and deals to get new businesses to move in escalate, those of us remaining behind have to pick up the slack. As the old cliche’ goes, "Things just can’t stop." What this actually means is that the city and powers-that-be, or good old boys for short, have no intention of cutting their jobs or lowering their salaries. So the rest of us need to pay more. And although the school system continuously loses students, as people move in search of jobs, there are, proportionately, few, if any, administrative cuts. Nothing, for the most part changes, primarily because it’s all taxpayer funded.

Looking at my tax bill, the largest portion of it, 49%, goes to District 205 and its pension fund. Next, the city and township of Galesburg, one and the same, including the fire district and its pension fund, the library district and its pension fund, and the sanitary district and its pension fund, gets 33%. As it works out, two entities get 82% of my tax dollars, with pension funds accounting for 8.5% of my bill. While I don’t begrudge anyone getting a pension, I don’t. In the end, I suppose it’s my own damn fault. I always wanted to be a fireman.

Anyway, who’s responsible for all this madness? Mainly the state legislature. They keep the state of Illinois broke by refusing to raise the state income tax. Raising the state income tax from 3%, the lowest in the nation, to 4%, would give the state more than enough money to meet their obligations, particularly to education. Even throwing in some pork-barrel projects, there should still be enough revenue around to allow local governments to significantly lower or do away with real estate taxes, which are harmful to elderly and jobless homeowners. At least the state income tax is paid by people who are working.

Of course, all the state legislators are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they do this. They are flubbingly happy to get decent incomes, excellent retirement benefits, excellent health insurance and countless days off to pursue other careers, all at the expense of the rest of us.

So we pay real estate taxes. Oh, how we pay.

Home ownership. A dream come true.

Real estate taxes. We should give them IOU’s.