Paying high taxes in La Salle County? Homes are worth more

A few tax rates rose, but mostly assessments are up

Sticker shock! La Salle County tax bills arrived this week and many residents are paying more this year. Why? Home values rose not only across the Illinois Valley, but across the state. The increased valuations offset tax rate cuts by many cities and school districts in La Salle County.

If you opened your recent property tax bill from La Salle County, you probably took in your breath. For most residents, the bottom line jumped sharply.

Now, you can exhale. For most taxpayers, the explanation is more good news than bad.

An analysis of tax bills mailed to La Salle County mayors showed that most cities enjoyed a modest cut in tax rates. If your bill went up, it’s likely because your home is worth more.

“Is anyone happy when they receive their tax bill? I would guess no.”

—  Tara Bedei, mayor of Streator

That was the case in Peru. Mayor Ken Kolowski’s tax bill jumped almost $400 to $5,380, but that’s mainly because of an 8% boost in the value of his home. Except for La Salle-Peru High School (a 1% hike) all the Peru taxing bodies cut tax rates.

“It’s a high priority to keep property taxes low in the city of Peru,” Kolowski said, affirming that most line-items were held in check.

La Salle County had warned for months that residential real estate values would have to be adjusted and that taxpayers weren’t going to be happy. And they’re not.

Are you paying more to La Salle County in property taxes? Many of us are. The issue isn't that rates have climbed -- most cities and schools held theirs in check -- but that are homes are worth more.

It isn’t just the Illinois Valley feeling the pain. Stephanie Kennedy, supervisor of assessments for La Salle County, issued a summary of the forces that drove up values across the state. (Kennedy issued a detailed statement below.)

Meanwhile, look closely at your bill: chances are most line-items slid. La Salle County and Illinois Valley Community College, for example, trimmed rates by 2.7% and 3.5%, respectively. Most cities can claim to have held their rates down. In Ottawa, for example, virtually every line-item was cut.

It was nearly the same story in La Salle. The county sent Mayor Jeff Grove a bill for $3,118, which is 10% higher than last year’s $2,843, but that’s mainly because his home rose 11% in value. Except for L-P, all the La Salle-area tax rates slid.

“I’m happy with the city portion of the tax bill,” Grove said. “The city department heads and council continues to focus on prioritizing spending because we want to lessen impact on our constituents. I have heard concerns on the overall tax bill. The school portion went up. Unfortunately, we cannot control the impact other taxing bodies create on their portions of the tax bills.”

Taxpayers in Streator will have less sticker-shock. Yes, Mayor Tara Bedei is paying more in taxes this year but her bottom line rose just $159 to a total $3,880.66. Her home value climbed about 8%, but big rate cuts by Streator Elementary (7%) and the city (9%) took some sting out of Bedei’s rising assessment.

“Is anyone happy when they receive their tax bill?” Bedei said. “I would guess no.”

Bedei said the city received reports from both La Salle and Livingston counties regarding the assessed valuation of properties within the city and then lowered its rate. That stands in contrast to years when assessed values decreased but rates went up.

Mendota Mayor David Boelk owes the county $600 more than he paid last year. That stings, but every taxing body Boelk pays has cut rates except for Mendota Elementary (a 4% increase). Boelk owes more because his home is worth 17% more than last year.

Here and there, a few taxing bodies increased their rates, however. One is Waltham Elementary School. Utica-area taxpayers will notice an increase of nearly 7% in Waltham’s line item and it’s largely because COVIA (the former Unimin Corp.) came off the tax rolls – a loss that forced Waltham to adjust rates upwards.

Line-item increases by the schools are one reason Utica Mayor David Stewart will pay more this year – he’ll pay the tax man an extra $560 (total bill: $4,250) – but mainly it’s because his home jumped 13% in value.

One city that somewhat bucked that trend was Oglesby. Property values rose there, too, but the city’s tax rate abruptly climbed 34%.

Mayor Jason Curran said last year’s low rate was an aberration – resulting from an error when Tax Increment Financing District 1 ended – that “artificially lowered” the rate that appeared on the 2023 tax bills.

“This made it look like (this year’s) tax rate shot up a significant amount,” Curran said, “but if you actually compare it to the year prior, the property values increased so well that we actually have a lower tax rate today than we had two years ago. In fact, it’s 11.3% lower today compared to two years ago.”

Statement from Stephanie Kennedy, supervisor of assessments for La Salle County

This is a problem not just for our county, it is truly all of Illinois.

Property is to be assessed at 33.3% of market value, based on using arm-length sales for the previous three years. For the tax year 2023, the sales that were used are from 2022, 2021 and 2020, during which there has been a higher market. What has caused this in La Salle County and all over our state is higher multipliers that need to be put on those Townships that are not at the 33.3 market value.

Also the 2023 tax year was a quadrennial year. Under the law, “the assessor, in person or by deputy, shall actually view and determine as near as practicable the value of each property listed for taxation as of January 1 of that year, or as provided in Section 9-180, and assess the property at 33 1/3% of its fair cash value.” (35 ILCS 200/9-155)

These are the two main reasons for this year’s assessment increases. Of course, there are many other variables that can also increase our taxes. Taxpayers may call our office at 815-434-8233 to best answer their questions.

There is a payment box for La Salle County property taxes in the east parking lot of the La Salle County Governmental Complex, 707 E. Etna Road, Ottawa.
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