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Local anti-tax group protests in Chicago, gets chat with governor's staff

About 45 McHenry and Lake County residents braved a cool and occasionally rainy day Wednesday to protest in downtown Chicago for lower taxes.

Members of Illinois Tax Revolution, a new group that has made headlines by members paying their high property taxes with dollar bills, took their message to the plaza of the James R. Thompson Center, which houses state government offices. Members engaged in an hourlong protest, their third after protests in front of the McHenry and Lake counties treasurers’ offices.

Most of the protesters took the train downtown from the Pingree Road Metra station. Among them were group co-founders Bob Anderson and Joe Tirio.

“We’re here to continue to build up our coalition, and to bring the message to the people of Chicago and Springfield that the people are tired of the taxes, and we’re looking for citizens and elected officials to take action,” said Tirio, of Woodstock, who is running for McHenry County recorder on a platform of eliminating the office altogether.

Anderson, a Wonder Lake barber and longtime activist for eliminating township government, said he was happy with the turnout. He spent the months leading up to the protest encouraging people and his customers to attend to make their voices heard. 

“There’s certainly enough people here to make sure that McHenry County has a strong voice,” Anderson said.

Several members of the group got a 20-minute audience with the governor’s constituent outreach staff, Tirio said.

The group was founded in the wake of the publicity and support created when McHenry resident Dan Aylward, another of the group’s co-founders, went to the treasurer’s office in June to pay the first installment of his $11,468.38 property tax bill in dollar bills. Aylward, who has said he is being taxed out of a home that has been in his family for more than a century, returned Aug. 31 to pay his second installment in singles, this time joined by three other taxpayers who did the same.

Treasurer’s offices don’t decide tax bills. They only collect what taxing bodies charge, a fact the group knows well. But the sheer number of taxing bodies in Illinois makes other forms of protest, or attending more than a small fraction of their meetings to ask for tax relief, a challenge.

Illinois has about 7,000 units of local government, far more than any other state. On top of county and township governments and community college districts, McHenry County property tax bills include school districts – often several of them – municipal government and special units such as park and library districts. 

The state has the highest or second-highest average property tax burden of all 50 states, depending on the study; and a Washington, D.C.-based tax watchdog group places McHenry County’s burden as the 29th highest by county nationwide. 

A poll released Monday concluded that almost half of Illinois residents want to leave – and the top reason most cited by the 1,000 voters polled was the tax burden. Census data released this year not only placed Illinois at the top for out-migration, but also for the first time put the number of people moving out at more than 100,000 people.

Among the group’s priorities are property tax reduction, pension reform, consolidation of school districts and paring down the number of taxing bodies through either consolidation or elimination.

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