LAKEWOOD – Village voters will have a symbolic opportunity on the Nov. 8 ballot to give their local governments a piece of their mind about property tax increases.
Village Trustee Paul Serwatka and a group of volunteers submitted petitions for an advisory referendum asking whether taxing bodies with any boundaries in the village should be required to seek voter approval by referendum if they want to increase their levy.
Under the tax cap law, governments do not have to go to referendum to raise taxes within the annual rate of inflation as defined by the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Serwatka, who has called for lower taxes and tax reform since entering county politics, said he wanted to give residents another voice with which to protest the county's high property tax burden.
“This is telling [governments], right at the ballot box, don’t raise our taxes, don’t spend our money without coming to us first,” he said.
Serwatka submitted 510 signatures Friday with the county clerk, about double what is needed to get the question to Lakewood voters.
He also acknowledged that he wants to send a message to his fellow village trustees not to further consider plans for a new village hall. While the village maintains its administrative offices and police station in a small building on Crystal Lake, the Village Board meets at RedTail Golf Club.
Because only a handful of people attend Village Board meetings, Serwatka said, the referendum will serve notice.
“Nobody wants it. I’ve literally talked to a thousand people, and no one wants it,” he said.
One estimate by the Tax Foundation places McHenry County’s average property tax burden as the 29th highest by county in the U.S. Other studies put Illinois’ overall burden as either the highest or second highest.
All or most of Lakewood's property owners pay taxes to the village, Grafton Township, McHenry County government and its subsidiary agencies, the McHenry County Conservation District, McHenry County College, School Districts 47 and 155, and the Crystal Lake Park District.