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Local pension costs and property taxes top of mind for some at Illinois statehouse

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(The Center Square) – A move is underway at the Illinois Statehouse to address the rising costs of local pensions while some look to alleviate the state’s property tax burden.

Illinois property taxes are already among the highest in the country. Many taxing bodies have more of their share of property taxes going to local pensions.

Part of the Illinois Municipal League’s 2024 legislative agenda includes re-amortizing local pension debt beyond the aim of 90% funded by 2040. IML CEO Brad Cole equated that to refinancing a home loan.

“We saved thousands of dollars and our payment has gone down every month and we’re able to stay in the house, and we’re able to actually invest in the home and put a new kitchen in,” Cole said. “That’s what this is. We’re asking to refinance the house. We’re not defaulting on the payment. We’re just asking to be able to make the payments.”

Municipal leaders say without some relief, they may have to increase taxes on local residents to continue making payments and providing services.

Republicans filed a measure to help alleviate some pressures on property taxes by granting state funds to certain school districts.

State Rep. Tim Ozinga, R-Mokena, filed House Bill 4866 to give local school districts more state taxpayer funds through an Education Property Tax Relief Fund. He said that could lower property taxes.

“All this can be done without the need to raise any additional taxes and would result in an estimated $82.4 billion in property tax relief for residents across this state over the course of the next 21 years,” Ozinga said.

Former state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, originated the idea. He said as the state sees less of the budget going to pensions, more can be given to local governments for property tax relief.

Cole said such an idea is helpful.

“If you want to talk about ways to fully fund pensions, then let’s eliminate some of the unfunded mandates that take away from other things that we can’t put into pension costs,” Cole said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently said increasing state funding for local K-12 education would also help lower property taxes. The state’s school funding formula allocates an additional $350 million extra a year for public K-12 education.

Illinois legislators return Tuesday. Pritzker delivers his budget address Wednesday.

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