Rock Island County Administrator explains proposed property tax hike

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois - The Rock Island County Board is considering a 8.9% property tax increase to help cover the cost of the county's contribution to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, rising Medicare and Social Security costs, and to help cover pending legal settlements.

Moline resident Chris Cain told News 8 the tax hike would be a burden.

He says the property taxes for his home have doubled in the past 20 years, from about $2,000 to about $4,000.

Cain said the tax hike, no matter how minimal, would be a burden.

"Sometime, people are just going to revolt," Cain joked. "We just can't keep doing this."

The tax hike would only be on the county's portion of a resident's property tax bill.

The county collects about $260 million dollars each year in property tax revenue but, only about 12% or $30 million dollars stay at the county level.

The rest of the money goes towards schools, cities and villages, TIF districts, townships and road districts, special districts, fire protection, forest preserves and Cordova Park.

At the county level, the revenue is used to fund county services. That means the money helps to pay for court services, the State's Attorney office, and the Sheriff's department, and other operations and staff expenses.

The money also helps to fund facilities such as the Jail, the Justice Center Annex, the County Building, Animal Shelters and the Hope Creek Nursing facility, among others.

County Administrator Jim Snider says the biggest reason for the proposed tax increase is because they county is struggling to keep up with rising pension costs.

"It's not just a Rock Island issue. It`s a local government issue throughout Illinois where cities and counties are struggling to make those payments," said Snider.

Snider said pension costs in Rock Island County are increasing at a rate of about $600,000 year over year.

"We are mandated to pay that. It`s something we have to levy for," said Snider.

The costs of Medicare and Social Security are also a concern for the county, said Snider. So are the cost of pending legal settlements.

It has been recommended that one-million dollars be added to the account that helps to cover legal settlements.

Snider said that the increase to property tax would be minimal, for the most part.

He said, if approved, a home that costs $100,000 would be taxed an additional $24 per year.

Snider also said the county has been aggressive and making cuts and finding ways to save money.

"We have done, I think, a good job of trying to do more with less," said Snider.

He says a majority of the county's departments have cut the size of their staff by 50% in recent years.

Still, residents like Chris Cain say this tax hike is a burden.

"I've even contemplated moving out of Rock Island County because of how high the taxes are," said Cain.

Snider said the County Board will be presented chances to cut property taxes by as much as 20% or 30% following the sale of the Hope Creek Care Center, if they decide to sell.

He also says policy-makers should consider more reform concerning pensions in the future.

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