Illinois 66th House District candidate Paul Serwatka is pledging if elected to contribute the office’s taxpayer-funded salary to fight for local tax relief.
Serwatka announced last week that he will donate the entire first-year paycheck – $67,836, not counting the per diem reimbursement – to what he called a “Property Tax Relief Fund.”
The fund would provide seed money for initiatives such as backing fiscally conservative candidates for local government and organizing local tax watchdog groups to help fight for lower property taxes.
The areas of McHenry and Kane counties covered by the 66th District have among the nation’s highest average property tax bills.
Serwatka said he has been kicking around the idea for some time during town hall meetings with constituents – while running for federal, state or county and municipal government can be an expensive chore, he said the fund can make running for school, library and park boards less daunting for candidates committed to government frugality.
“By contributing my salary, we can immediately begin efforts, as well as leverage other contributions, to initiate real reform locally, where property taxes are affected most,” Serwatka said.
The Lakewood village trustee is one of four Republicans seeking the nomination for the 66th District, which covers southeastern McHenry and northern Kane counties, including parts of Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills, Algonquin, Huntley, Carpentersville, East Dundee, West Dundee and Elgin.
Data compiled by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation puts Illinois’ average property tax burden at 2.32 percent of home value, just behind New Jersey.
When broken down by county, the group ranks McHenry County’s average property tax burden as the 29th highest nationwide as of 2010.
Kane County ranks just behind it at 30th highest.
Illinois also has far more units of local government than any other state – the Land of Lincoln has about 7,000 local governments, which makes keeping an eye on them and making them more fiscally accountable a daunting task.
Serwatka acknowledged that unfunded mandates and lack of responsibility from the General Assembly contributes to local tax bills.
But while he as a state legislator can fight what happens in Springfield, he said, groups can get local funding from his fund to rein in spending on their numerous local taxing bodies.
“By creating this ‘Illinois Property Tax Relief Fund’ we can begin to hold local taxing bodies accountable, effect fiscal responsibility and promote fiscal conservatism within – and in a very meaningful way,” Serwatka said.
The $67,836 that Illinois lawmakers receive is a base salary – lawmakers can add thousands of dollars to it a year as chairmen or vice chairmen of legislative committees or being part of party leadership.
Illinois state legislators are among the highest paid in the nation.
Serwatka also waived the salary that comes with being a village trustee after his upset victory in 2015 as a write-in candidate.