The Uncertain Effects Of Dropping EAVs


If you read the local papers last week, two headlines might have grabbed your attention: “Property Values Here Take A Hit” (Park Ridge Journal, June 25); and “Park Ridge city taxes could rise more than 16 percent (Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, June 26).

According to those articles, City Finance Director Kent Oliven is reporting that the numbers coming out of the Cook County Clerk’s office show a 17.8% drop in the equalized assessed value (“EAV”) of all Park Ridge property collectively. That’s the biggest drop of any taxing body in Cook County, and it is accompanied by Maine Township’s having the largest drop of any Cook County township.

Solely for comparison purposes, Niles’ EAV dropped 14%, Glenview’s 11.6% and Des Plaines’ 16.8%. And the average drop for the entire group of northern Cook County suburbs subject to the triennial reassessment of values for the years 2010 through 2012 was 12.8%.

One saving grace, according to Oliven, is that some of Park Ridge’s larger new developments – like the new Whole Foods store – do not appear to have been counted as part of the 2013 reassessment.  But, according to Oliven, the EAV of properties within the Uptown TIF have “fallen more than the rest of the city” throughout the past decade, and he expects that to be the case this time around as well.

What does that mean for the typical Park Ridge homeowner?

If we’re lucky, perhaps nothing.

Viewed in the most simple way, the City and our other local governmental bodies still need to collect a certain number of tax dollars to operate. So if the value of the taxable property declines, the tax levy rate needs to increase to produce the same tax revenues. Conversely, when the EAV goes up, a smaller levy rate can generate the same amount of tax dollars.

So if each of our local governmental bodies operated the “wise and frugal” government Thomas Jefferson envisioned and advocated, both the new EAV and the resultant new levy to be passed this December would probably be little more than a footnote – with a higher levy being assessed on a lower EAV. But as we keep on pointing out, none of our local governing bodies appear to be all that “wise” or all that “frugal” – although the City in recent years seems to have been doing a better job than the other local governmental bodies, especially the two school districts that keep spending and spending with no increases in objectively measurable performance vis-à-vis the upper-echelon comparable communities to show for it.

And despite the Park District seemingly doing a good job at aligning its operating expenses with its operating revenues over the past few years, we’re hoping “no” but betting “yes” that the debt service for the new non-referendum Centennial water park and the new referendum-based Youth Campus Park will start turning the District’s black ink into red.

But that likely won’t happen until most, if not all, of the current Park Board members responsible for both projects have left the Board; and until the mastermind of those projects, Director Gayle Mountcastle, has either leveraged her dubious achievement into a move to another District, or retired.

That’s what occurred with the perpetrators of the Uptown TIF who ordered the whole menu of bonded debt and subsidies for the private developers, then disappeared into private life while sticking the taxpayers with the bill – and leaving Mayor Schmidt and the current Council to unravel the mess and take the public shelling for all the bad financial news about the TIF and its adverse effects on the rest of the City’s activities like flood control.

It reminds us of that line from the movie “Under Siege,” where the Tommy Lee Jones character (a former CIA agent) succinctly explains his going rogue on the U.S. with: “I got tired of coming up with last-minute desperate solutions to impossible problems created by other [%$#@ing] people.”

The Uptown TIF may not be an “impossible” problem, but it’s unlikely to be solved in any better way than through one of those hold-your-nose deals that are becoming increasingly familiar to Illinois residents as they struggle to cope with the effects of at least 30 years of virtually non-stop corrupt governance by the likes of Mike Madigan, his Democratic toadies in control of the General Assembly, and the occasional Republican accomplices like former Govs. Thompson, Edgar and Ryan.

With the Uptown TIF, we can only hope that it was merely a stupid idea.

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