Whenever any public body asks taxpayers to approve a referendum?"whether it's for a straight permanent tax increase or to approve the sale of bonds?"elected officials provide an idea of what the "average" taxpayer will end up paying as the result of a successful referendum.
While we suppose that's a helpful tool with which to sell a referendum to voters (or doom it completely), there's got to be a better, more easily understood way to explain where these numbers are coming from.
In most cases, the numbers appear to be picked from thin air, based on the sale value of people's homes, since that is the number most homeowners actually recognize. However, an individual's tax burden isn't based on what they paid for their house, but rather on what the county assessor says their house's assessed valuation is.
In the old days?"before such information was available on the Internet?"figuring out your particular tax increase for a referendum question involved some work. But with such information at the fingertips of both taxpayers and public bodies, you'd think it would be much easier to get specific, accurate information on matters of such importance.
Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 has revised its estimate of what an "average" taxpayer will pay for its proposed tax increase, lowering it significantly from their referendum of a year ago?"when the district was actually asking for less!
Taxpayers, we're sure, will look at this dramatic change with some degree of skepticism, even if it is completely accurate.
In response, District 95 school board member Charles Snyder has suggested collecting a list of each property in the district, specifically listing the assessed value of each property in order to make it easier for taxpayers to figure out what the tax burden will be for them.
We'll go a step further.
If public bodies really want taxpayers to know what a tax referendum is going to cost them?"then they should take the mystery out of the equation all together. Information such as a property's assessed value is public information, and is published routinely by townships under law.
With the technology available today, there has got to be some way to compile not only a list of properties, but a way to do the math for taxpayers. Publish a list of every address within the boundaries of a public body, along with the exact amount of tax increase, based on the proposed tax hike, related to that address.
No more "average" figure, no more guessing. If public bodies think their tax increases are not only for the best, but also not as onerous as people might think, they should let people know exactly how it's going to affect their wallets.
We'd think the effort involved in creating such a list would be worth it to the public body, which stands to gain millions of dollars in return for that effort. And we're not talking the City of Chicago here. We're talking?"at least in the cases of Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside?"villages with populations of under 20,000 and school districts of under 1,500 students.
Do voters a favor, and let them know the bottom line to their specific wallets.