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Tax protest group rallies, pays McHenry County property taxes in $1 bills

Illinois Tax Revolution calling for property tax relief as residents pay bills in protest

WOODSTOCK – Frustrated taxpayer Garrett Basista spoke softly and carried a backpack with $3,153 in dollar bills to pay his property taxes.

Basista, who lives in Wonder Lake, was one of 50 people who attended a Wednesday morning tax protest in front of the McHenry County Treasurer’s Office, and one of four paying property taxes in singles to protest the amount by, in a small way, tying up government resources with the time needed to count them.

“I pay $6,300 in taxes. It went up from $5,700 last year, and I don’t even have lake rights. It’s ridiculous,” Basista said. 

Basista’s barber happens to be Wonder Lake barber and longtime tax fighter Bob Anderson, who convinced him to attend the protest held by the new group Illinois Tax Revolution, which seeks to force Springfield and the state’s 7,000 or so local units of government to lower the state’s crushing tax burden.

Basista got off lighter than others in the audience when it comes to tax increases. The tax bill of McHenry taxpayer Dan Aylward, who helped create the protest group when he paid his first installment in June in singles, went up almost 30 percent over last year. Aylward returned Wednesday to pay his second installment of $5,734 in singles, a dime, nickel and three pennies.

Aylward addressed the audience, a Samsonite rolling bag full of dollar bills at his feet and his $11.468.36 property tax bill in his hand, which he ripped up as he spoke. His home has been in his family for more than a century, but that will end with him, he said, because his children can’t afford the tax bill.

“A hundred thousand people left [Illinois] last year, 200,000 people will leave next year,” Aylward said. "Wait and see. Guarantee it. And I may be one of them. But I will never stop fighting for this cause. I will fight until my dying breath – my last dying breath. I will fight … if I have to fly back every week to support this group, I will fly back, and I will fight. We stick together, and we will win."

Illinois in recent years has been at or near the top of the list of states losing people. Half of Illinois residents in a 2014 Gallup poll said they would move if they could, and one in four called the state the worst to live in of all 50. Tax protesters, and some McHenry County residents who have left or are planning to leave, put the property tax burden high on the list of reasons.

The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation ranks McHenry County’s property tax burden as the 29th highest for all counties in the U.S., in a state that has either the highest or second-highest burden of all 50 states, depending on what study you read. Adding to taxpayer aggravation is that not only have bills stayed the same or increased despite home values falling after the housing bubble burst, but also that the very tax cap law passed to protect them during the good times now allows governments to capture inflationary revenue and continue to drive bills upward.

Because Illinois has more units of government than any other state – property tax bills easily can have 10 or more bodies on them – attending all or most of their meetings to ask for tax relief is a huge undertaking for a taxpayer.

School districts by far make up the largest percentage for McHenry County taxpayers. McHenry County government, by comparison, makes up about 10 percent of an average tax bill. Anderson and other protesters said that taxes are so high that homeowners in effect rent their homes from the government.

Anderson paid the $2,000 installment on his barbershop in dollar bills, and Lakemoor resident Rose Venegas paid about $5,500, bringing the total that Treasurer Glenda Miller’s office had to count on Wednesday to more than $16,387.

Anderson and others made it clear that Miller’s office is not the enemy – her office only collects what taxing bodies calculate they are owed. But Republican elected officials and candidates attended Wednesday’s rally to tell taxpayers how they plan to lower the burden.

Steven Reick, candidate for the 63rd House District, said he will immediately fight if elected for the state to take the burden of school funding as is mandated by the state constitution, and to fight for pension reform by transferring all new hires to 401(k)s. McHenry County Recorder candidate Joe Tirio, who helped found the protest group, is running on a platform to eliminate his office entirely by merging it with the county clerk’s office, which a number of other Illinois counties have done in recent years.

County Board chairman candidate Michael Walkup spoke, and in attendance were County Board candidates Tom Wilbeck and Craig Wilcox. Walkup, armed with a pie chart, told audience members that school districts by far take up the biggest slice. But Wilcox later added that every local government can tighten its belt.

“Everyone who drops a levy on you can reduce taxes,” Wilcox said.

Walkup encouraged tax fighters to run for local school boards in the April 2017 election.

The group held a protest last week at the Lake County Treasurer’s Office, where 10 people paid their property taxes in singles.

McHenry and Lake counties now have a policy requiring people who pay in small denominations to be present as the money is counted.

If you go …

The group Illinois Tax Revolution will hold its next protest at noon Oct. 12 at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago. It is working to get a brief audience with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Online

You can learn more about the group at www.illinoistaxrevolution.com.

WOODSTOCK – Frustrated taxpayer Garrett Basista spoke softly and carried a backpack with $3,153 in dollar bills to pay his property taxes.

Basista, who lives in Wonder Lake, was one of 50 people who attended a Wednesday morning tax protest in front of the McHenry County Treasurer’s Office, and one of four paying property taxes in singles to protest the amount by, in a small way, tying up government resources with the time needed to count them.

“I pay $6,300 in taxes. It went up from $5,700 last year, and I don’t even have lake rights. It’s ridiculous,” Basista said. 

Basista’s barber happens to be Wonder Lake barber and longtime tax fighter Bob Anderson, who convinced him to attend the protest held by the new group Illinois Tax Revolution, which seeks to force Springfield and the state’s 7,000 or so local units of government to lower the state’s crushing tax burden.

Basista got off lighter than others in the audience when it comes to tax increases. The tax bill of McHenry taxpayer Dan Aylward, who helped create the protest group when he paid his first installment in June in singles, went up almost 30 percent over last year. Aylward returned Wednesday to pay his second installment of $5,734 in singles, a dime, nickel and three pennies.

Aylward addressed the audience, a Samsonite rolling bag full of dollar bills at his feet and his $11.468.36 property tax bill in his hand, which he ripped up as he spoke. His home has been in his family for more than a century, but that will end with him, he said, because his children can’t afford the tax bill.

“A hundred thousand people left [Illinois] last year, 200,000 people will leave next year,” Aylward said. "Wait and see. Guarantee it. And I may be one of them. But I will never stop fighting for this cause. I will fight until my dying breath – my last dying breath. I will fight … if I have to fly back every week to support this group, I will fly back, and I will fight. We stick together, and we will win."

Illinois in recent years has been at or near the top of the list of states losing people. Half of Illinois residents in a 2014 Gallup poll said they would move if they could, and one in four called the state the worst to live in of all 50. Tax protesters, and some McHenry County residents who have left or are planning to leave, put the property tax burden high on the list of reasons.

The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation ranks McHenry County’s property tax burden as the 29th highest for all counties in the U.S., in a state that has either the highest or second-highest burden of all 50 states, depending on what study you read. Adding to taxpayer aggravation is that not only have bills stayed the same or increased despite home values falling after the housing bubble burst, but also that the very tax cap law passed to protect them during the good times now allows governments to capture inflationary revenue and continue to drive bills upward.

Because Illinois has more units of government than any other state – property tax bills easily can have 10 or more bodies on them – attending all or most of their meetings to ask for tax relief is a huge undertaking for a taxpayer.

School districts by far make up the largest percentage for McHenry County taxpayers. McHenry County government, by comparison, makes up about 10 percent of an average tax bill. Anderson and other protesters said that taxes are so high that homeowners in effect rent their homes from the government.

Anderson paid the $2,000 installment on his barbershop in dollar bills, and Lakemoor resident Rose Venegas paid about $5,500, bringing the total that Treasurer Glenda Miller’s office had to count on Wednesday to more than $16,387.

Anderson and others made it clear that Miller’s office is not the enemy – her office only collects what taxing bodies calculate they are owed. But Republican elected officials and candidates attended Wednesday’s rally to tell taxpayers how they plan to lower the burden.

Steven Reick, candidate for the 63rd House District, said he will immediately fight if elected for the state to take the burden of school funding as is mandated by the state constitution, and to fight for pension reform by transferring all new hires to 401(k)s. McHenry County Recorder candidate Joe Tirio, who helped found the protest group, is running on a platform to eliminate his office entirely by merging it with the county clerk’s office, which a number of other Illinois counties have done in recent years.

County Board chairman candidate Michael Walkup spoke, and in attendance were County Board candidates Tom Wilbeck and Craig Wilcox. Walkup, armed with a pie chart, told audience members that school districts by far take up the biggest slice. But Wilcox later added that every local government can tighten its belt.

“Everyone who drops a levy on you can reduce taxes,” Wilcox said.

Walkup encouraged tax fighters to run for local school boards in the April 2017 election.

The group held a protest last week at the Lake County Treasurer’s Office, where 10 people paid their property taxes in singles.

McHenry and Lake counties now have a policy requiring people who pay in small denominations to be present as the money is counted.

If you go …

The group Illinois Tax Revolution will hold its next protest at noon Oct. 12 at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago. It is working to get a brief audience with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Online

You can learn more about the group at www.illinoistaxrevolution.com.

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