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Opinion

The property tax levy — it is not anything new

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 - Updated: 10:42 AM
There is that old saying about how the only two things for certain in life are death and taxes.
There are certainly a lot of taxes people have to pay and it would be great if county residents could see some tax relief.  But the protest against the annual tax levy this year and in years past, seems very foolish and a waste of time.
Massac County’s annual tax levy ordinance was slated to be voted upon Dec. 19, but was tabled.  At this week’s commissioner’s meeting the board passed its tax levy.
The county’s total proposed tax levy amount is over $2.9 million.  The 2017 tax levy is a one percent increase over the 2016 tax levy, which amounts to a total of $7000.
But, because Massac County voted for Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), which limits the amounts taxing districts can increase their levies, taxing districts have to adhere to PTELL and cannot increase levies drastically without holding a truth in taxation hearing.
As you can see in the graphic for the 2015, payable 2016 tax cycle, the county received $2,512,672.52 out of about $14.4 million that the county collected.
The actual amount making it to the county’s general fund was $456,355.
At this point in the taxing cycle, it is a bit premature to say if tax bills will be higher or lower because there are other factors still yet to be determined.
By removing the tax levy completely, that would mean 4-H, Massac County the Mental Health Board and Southern Seven Health Department would not have received any county funding.
It was proposed at the Dec. 20 meeting, that the county should eliminate the tax levy ordinance and the county could decide whether or not to give money to 4-H, Mental Health Board and Southern Seven Health Department.
If the county leaders have not been able to scrape up enough money to make major renovations to the courthouse, then how are they going to be able to pay out a total of $343,000 to those three entities?
The property tax levy is not anything new, like some people would try to spin it to be.
The tax levy ordinance is not the same thing as the sales tax that was voted on in November.  The sales tax referendum was voted on twice, and both times it failed.  The county can not move forward with that option.
An examination of the 2017 tax levy ordinance shows that $44,700 is earmarked for courthouse repair and maintenance.
By far the property tax levy is one of the largest sources of county revenue.
Each year property tax bills are sent out and people  complain that their taxes are too high.  Trying to understand 100 percent of how the Illinois real estate property taxes operate is challenging, as it is a complicated subject.  One of the most important things to remember is the property tax cycle is one year behind schedule — meaning the tax bill property owners are paying is for the year prior.
After that, then when looking at the tax bill, people have to look to see which taxing districts are listed on their bill.
Many people would automatically assume the tax bills are solely determined by the assessed value of the property, but according to Constance Beard, director of Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), local taxing bodies determine tax bills when they request money each year to provide services to local citizens.
In Massac County there are a total of 19 taxing districts and the end of the calendar year is when the taxing districts pass an ordinance or a resolution regarding their annual tax levy.  The county collects money for those taxing districts and makes distributions to them from the property tax money the county receives.
Taxing definitions include:
• Taxing district: Any unit of local government, school district or community college district with the power to levy property taxes.
• Tax levy: A taxing district’s request for revenue to be obtained from the property tax.
• Property tax: a tax, generally based on the value of the property, authorized by state law and used to fund many aspects of local government

Many people would like to lay all the blame regarding tax bills on the shoulders of the county government, but people need to educate themselves that Massac County is only one of the taxing bodies that levies for property taxes each year.  
Property tax bills are determined by factors such as the assessed value, whether or not there are or are not exemptions on the property and the tax rates for each taxing district.
Massac County State’s Attorney Patrick Windhorst has explained the county is not required to have a property tax levy, but the levy funds many aspects of county government.
Although the taxing districts pass annual tax levies to operate, the final tax rates that appear on the tax bills are also determined by the multiplier issued from the state.
As of now, the county’s tentative property assessment equalization factor is 0.9771, as was announced in a press release last week.
At the Nov. 28 Massac Unit One school board meeting, Unit One adopted a $6.6 million tax levy.  That total amount goes to: Education purposes — $3,787,974; Operation, building and maintenance purposes — $697,869; Transportation - $279,145; Working cash fund — $69,783; Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund — $250,000; Social Security — $250,000; Fire Prevention -$0; and Tort immunity — $500,000; Special Education — $69,783.  The total of those funds is $5,904,554, but when bond payments in the amount of $715,000 are included, the total is $6,619,554.  The levy is an increase of 4.42 percent.
The Joppa-Maple Grove school district at its Dec. 19 meeting, just adopted a $1,912,350 tax levy, which is an increase of 4.95 percent, which amounts to increase of $90,000.  That increase is to cover an increase in certified, non-certified salaries.
If people will take the time to examine how much money the county collects and how much the county’s corporate general fund receives, the one thing they will notice is the largest portion of the property taxes go straight to the two local school districts.
And, what’s even more frustrating to many people is the fact there is so much more money going to the school districts yet frequently the local school teachers have to pay for some, if not all of the supplies for their rooms or how there are some instances when school children aren’t even using text books because there aren’t enough to go around.
Within Massac County’s 2017 tax levy ordinance, the revenue that would go to the county’s corporate general fund to be used for county purposes, the amount proposed is .27 cents per $100 of valuation.  The total amount being levied for county purposes is only $476,000.
Also included in the levy is 4-H, Youth, Agriculture and Home Economics Education in the amount of $65,000; Massac County Mental Health Board in the amount of $173,000; Southern Seven Health Department, $105,000.
Previously the county had levied $50,000 for the tuberculosis fund, but on the 2016 levy, that amount was lowered to $5000 and remains at $5000 in the 2017 tax levy ordinance.

How is a tax bill calculated?
According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, once tax rates for all taxing bodies in a county have been set, the county clerk must add up the rates which apply to particular areas in the county. Different parts of the county are under jurisdiction of different combinations of taxing districts. The county clerk divides the county into tax code areas, in which all property is subject to the jurisdiction of the same combination of taxing units and thus has the same combination of tax rates. Aggregate rates are computed for each code area. A tax bill is calculated by multiplying the equalized assessed value of a property (less any homestead exemptions) by the aggregate rate for the tax code area in which the property lies.
The aggregate rate seen on a bill will be a combination of a county rate, a township rate, a school district, a city rate (if a taxpayer lives within the boundaries of an incorporated municipality), and rates for any special districts, such as fire, sanitary, etc., which service the area. In Illinois, the rate is generally expressed in terms of dollars per hundred dollars of equalized assessed valuation (the same as a percent).
It’s complicated folks, but that’s the way it is.


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