A bill that would require property-tax referendum language to more accurately describe the potential cost to property owners passed the Illinois House of Representatives without a single no vote last week.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), would require that all future ballot referendums contain calculations using the state equalization factor, known as the multiplier, rather than just a property’s assessed valuation, according to a press release from Zalewski.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 110 to 0 on Friday and now moves to the Senate where state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) is a chief sponsor.

The Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 referendum was one of 10 referendums in Cook County on the April 5 ballot that did not include the state equalized assessed valuation (EAV) multiplier.

Some opponents of referendums in District 208 and in Oak Park said felt that referendum language used on April 5 understated the amount of the tax increase that property owners would face if the referendums passed.

In District 208, the tax rate increase was overwhelmingly defeated but voters in Oak Park Elementary District 97 approved increasing their limiting tax rate.

Zalewski said his intent with the legislation was to make clear to voters how much a tax increase would cost if approved.

“The board was obviously relying on counsel, Chapman and Cutler, and counsel’s advice to them was the EAV wasn’t necessary under state law,” Zalewski said. “So what we’ve done to make it crystal clear to everyone that going forward, if the bill were to pass, the EAV will have to be on the ballot. There will be no room for doubt.”

Harmon said Monday that he anticipates that the Senate will also pass the bill.

“I expect that we’ll take it up in the normal order of taking up House bills between now and the end of May,” Harmon said. “I’m confident that we be able to pass a bill that clarifies what I thought was already clear in the law, but we’ll see if there are other improvements we can offer that will make these complicated ballot questions even more understandable to the voters and taxpayers who vote on them.”

– Bob Skolnik