Boone County Treasurer's Office

Curtis P. Newport, Boone County Treasurer

Property tax myth #1: Property taxes go up because real estate values go up.


Property tax myth #2: When real estate values go down, property taxes should also go down.

Also false.

The truth is, property taxes go up because it costs more to provide the services those taxes pay for.  Your tax money is used to put teachers in classrooms, police cars on the street, prosecutors in courtrooms and snow plows on the road.

Government is a service industry.  And just like any other service industry, eighty to ninety percent of the costs are payroll-related.  The lion’s share of your tax money is used to pay wages, FICA taxes, health insurance and pension costs for government and school employees.  These costs tend to increase with inflation.  Schools and governments also buy fuel for their vehicles, heat for their buildings, postage, equipment and office supplies just like any other service industry.  These costs don’t go down just because the real estate market is in the tank.

Property tax collections have risen from year to year. But they did not rise as fast as property values during the real estate boom from 2000-2007. As the attached graph shows, tax rates fell significantly during that period. The most dramatic drops were the result of rapidly escalating real estate values. Tax rates are the result of dividing each tax district’s levy by the total equalized assessed value (EAV) of that district. When property values rise faster than tax levies (as they did from 2000 to 2007), the result is lower tax rates.

When property values declined from 2009-2014, tax rates increased dramatically. This trend continued until property values began to recover in 2015.

Illinois law requires that real estate  is taxed “ad valorem” (according to value).  This means that property is assessed to determine each parcel’s share of the total tax levy from each taxing district.  Your assessment is used to determine the size of your piece of the pie, but it does not affect the overall size of the pie.  Regardless what happens in the real estate market, if the pie gets bigger, the size of your piece will also get bigger.

Controlling the size of the pie (the tax levy) is the challenge facing local taxing districts.  In addition to the inflationary pressures already mentioned, local governments face arbitrated union contracts, unfunded state and federal mandates, and rapidly declining revenues from other sources (income tax and sales tax revenues have fallen dramatically in the last two years).  Expecting property taxes to miraculously drop just because our homes are worth less, is no more realistic than expecting our grocery bill or auto insurance bill to go down when the stock market has a bad year.

While there are always opportunities for local governments to become more efficient, the inescapable reality is that taxes will only go down if we decide to reduce or eliminate services.  Do you want to get rid of school sports and increase class sizes?  Reduce the number of police and firemen on duty?  Allow our roads to deteriorate and not plow them when it snows?

To demand lower taxes requires neither courage nor sacrifice. If we truly want that to happen, we need to decide what we want to live without.

The Boone County Treasurer’s Office is actually a budget-positive enterprise within county government. Fiscal Year 2009 revenues generated by the Treasurer’s Office far exceeded our operating expenses, as shown below:

TOTAL REVENUE $531,664.14 (details here)
TOTAL EXPENSES $158,020.96 (details here)
NET REVENUE $373,643.18

While we are not immune from budget cuts and we continue to look for ways to improve efficiency and do more with less, it’s good to know that the Treasurer’s Office does not require an infusion of tax dollars to operate.


Belvidere-based BNNS Radio reporter David Deckert interviewed Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport about the role of the office, budget issues and future plans for improving service to the public.

Click here to listen to the interview (about 12 minutes long).

Local citizen Bill Pysson submitted a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request concerning balances in the collector’s accounts.  The collector’s accounts are the bank accounts we use in the course of collecting and distributing property taxes.

His written request is here and my response is here.

Those of you who have been around for awhile may remember Gordon Spooner, who served three terms as Boone County Treasurer from 1986-1998.  He passed away on February 2nd, 2010 after a battle with heart and kidney problems.
Gordon and I attended the same church and knew each other for a long time.  Ten years ago he married my mother-in-law and became part of the family.  When I decided to pursue the Treasurer’s Office two years ago, he offered insights and encouragement and became my strongest supporter.
He left a legacy in the Boone County Treasurer’s Office – Three huge bookcases that hold collector’s books going back over 50 years.  He was an avid woodworker and built them in 1987 when a new Treasurer’s Office was constructed.  The County Board told him there was no budget for bookcases but if he built them they would pay for the lumber.
Gordon is survived by his second wife Rosemary, three sons and three grandsons.  He was predeceased by his first wife Lucy and two brothers.