I just got my real estate tax bill, second installment. Boy am I mad. My taxes have doubled! In an economy where our U.S. Congress has bailed out Wall Street, our local politicians are trying their best to bury those of us eking out a living here on Chicago’s side streets.
One of the things the property tax bill does is tax us to pay for the retirement fund of those on the public dole. Now in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, most people who worked had a retirement plan paid for by their private employers. But starting in the 1980s, most private employers replaced pension funds with 401Ks. A 401K makes individual employees responsible for saving for their own retirements, using a percentage of the money they make.
Now fast forward to today as we sit in an economy reeling from the credit meltdown, riding a recession, and, if it continues, may lead to a depression. I think it is time we the average bungalow-belt homeowner began to ask ourselves if we can continue to be the financial source for paying the retirement benefits of public employees? Especially when those salaries are beyond what most of us make.
Take, for example, Police Superintendent Jody Weiss. He earns over $300,000 a year-or Mayor Daley, who earns around $216,000 a year. Don’t you think they can afford to put some of that money away to pay for their own retirement? Add in the fringe benefits that they get, like bodyguards and being chauffeured around, and for them rising gas prices are at the expense of the public, not out of their own pockets.
Public employees are no longer “poorly paid.” Their salaries are commensurate or even better with those of people working in the private sector. When Mayor Daley defends the high salaries, he says the city has to compete with the private sector for top-notch individuals. Yet with a $400-million budget shortfall affecting the city, one has to question just how “top-notch” those folks are.
The same can be said for the county. We pay the highest taxes in the country because of County Board President Todd Stroger and the rest of the Cook County commissioners. Election time is coming and many of them will be on the ballot asking you to send them back to continue to fleece your pocketbooks. Every voter should do their homework prior to going into the election booth and determine if their current elected representative will get their vote. I can guarantee you that for many offices, I will no longer support the “do-nothing” incumbents.
By the way, a small blurb in the newspaper a few weeks back caught my attention. Tax Increment Financing (TIF districts) is a tool to help impoverished areas develop. A TIF freezes the taxes in a community at the level they were at the point the TIF was put in place. All tax increases after the TIF goes into effect are placed in a special TIF fund that the mayor can use as he pleases, theoretically to develop underdeveloped areas.
Well one of the TIFs that will be expiring is the Central Loop TIF. That TIF alone, it is said, will put over $111 million a year back into the regular city tax coffers instead of being sequestered in the TIF fund. So here’s a suggestion for those who have been protesting to get more funding for CPS. There are millions and millions of dollars being taken from taxpayers and put into TIF funds all over the city, which the mayor uses as his own slush fund to pay for anything he wants in those areas. For example, the Central Loop TIF helped pay for building Millennium Park and subsidized development of Theater Row and Block 37. So while many are screaming at Springfield to give more money, they should also look at where our tax dollars are going.
The recent Wall Street crisis has proven one thing-that is, we the taxpaying public can no longer just go about our merry way and expect others to do right. We must get involved and loudly let our politicians know how we feel. Otherwise, we will watch while they bail out everybody but us.