WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — Property taxes impact everyone, but in our area, homeowners feel that impact more than they should.
“They’re bearing the entire burden almost and that’s totally unfair,” said Gary Anderson with Gary W. Anderson Architects in Rockford.
Anderson says in healthy communities, homeowners make up about 70 percent of property taxes collected, while businesses and industries cover the other 30 percent. But in Rockford, he says homeowners make up 92 percent, meaning businesses and industries cover just 8 percent.
“And that’s where the shock is. We wonder why the homeowner has such high taxes,” Anderson said.
But why is the scale so unevenly tipped? Anderson says it’s because some multi-billion and million dollar companies fight to have the county lower their property’s value, so in turn, their taxes will drop.
“When you look at all the tax protests, it’s the people with the money to be able to go forward and buy the attorney to reduce that value, ” Anderson said. “The vast majority (of homeowners) are taking it on the chin. And that’s wrong.”
Hundreds of companies are fighting their taxes this year in Winnebago County. Sixty of them want a reduction of at least $100,000 in taxable value or their EAV. The company topping the list is Meijer in Machesney Park, which is asking to lower its value more than $1.3 million.
“It all comes back to wanting to pay less property taxes,” said Winnebago County Supervisor of Assessments Tom Hodges.
If Meijer won that reduction under the current tax rate, it would equal more than $156,000 in property taxes. 13 News reached out to Meijer for an interview. It provided the following statement:
“Our goal is to keep prices as low as possible for our customers and one way we do that is by ensuring we pay a fair and equitable amount of property tax. That’s the extent of our comment.”
But Meijer is far from the only big box store fighting to pay lower taxes.
Target in Machesney Park wants a $700,000 reduction in taxable value, Home Depot in Rockford wants more than $340,000 reduction, and Woodmans in Rockford is fighting to lower its value for the fourth year in a row. This year, it’s asking for a cut of nearly $500,000.
In all, more than $47 million in taxable value is on the chopping block. If that all got approved under the current tax rate, the area could lose roughly $5.5 million in property taxes.
Hodges, however, says that’s unlikely.
“About 60 percent of the requests see some sort of reduction,” he said.
And that reduction may be for less than the company’s requesting. But it still impacts the area since the taxing districts have a fixed budget and have to find some way to collect that money.
“What really is bothersome is the city, the county, the park district, everybody is crying where they don’t have the funds here to provide the necessary services to our community. Well, you don’t have to look too far that if you look at the EAV and the investment that’s occurred, this is what’s gonna happen and continue to happen and be exacerbated by this continued policy that we’re not doing anything about,” Anderson said.
Anderson says the county and every city in it needs to be adamant about property values, not just for the sake of lowering property taxes, but for enticing new business.
“We created a culture here in Rockford, let’s keep our values low so we keep our taxes low. But what we’ve succeeded in doing is when we’ve done that, we also discourage any kind of investment because you can’t see any kind of appreciation in your value and that’s the wrong way to be doing things,” he said.
Now Anderson says it’s time for Winnebago County to fight for the right way to do things, and start valuing what’s important for the areas growth.
Look below to see all the companies and industries in Winnebago County that are protesting their values this year.