December 30, 2019
The Civic Federation’s blog turned 10 years old in 2019. The following are summaries of the five most read posts presented on the Civic Federation’s blog throughout the decade in chronological order.
December 16, 2009
All governments should place a portion of their general operating revenues in a general fund reserve or “rainy day” fund. These rainy day funds are savings accounts that governments can use to address revenue shortfalls or unanticipated expenditures and to help stabilize tax rates. This blog post explored the right size for a government’s fund balance. Too little fund balance can hinder a government’s ability to deal with cash flow issues due to unforeseen circumstances. Too much fund balance can mean a government is not appropriately using or investing funds.
June 7, 2013
The Illinois Constitution permits the General Assembly to grant homestead exemptions, intended to reduce the taxable value of homeowners’ property. The State grants a number of homestead exemptions, and two are specifically for senior citizens: the Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption and the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption. This blog post discussed how senior exemptions fared in Cook County during the run-up and decline of property values between 2000 and 2010. A follow-up blog post found that the value of the senior freeze homestead exemption in Cook County plummeted 71.7% between 2009 and 2014.
December 23, 2014
In early December 2014, the Civic Federation published a report profiling selected unincorporated areas in Cook County. In 2014, Cook County’s unincorporated areas accounted for 125.8 square miles, or 13.1% of the County’s total land area. This blog post focused on the geography of Cook County’s unincorporated areas, noting that while their land area is not large, unincorporated parcels are scattered across the County, making it inefficient to provide services to their residents.
October 6, 2017
By any count, Illinois has by far the greatest number of local governments in the nation. The vast number of local governments in Illinois is often cited as a driving factor for its high property tax rates, as many of the local governments are primarily funded by property taxes. A large share of these local governments consist of local school districts, which in turn typically make up the largest share of a property owner’s tax bill. This blog post explored this relationship and compared trends in Illinois to those in other states.
April 12, 2019
In advance of the Chicago municipal election in March 2019, the Civic Federation released a report on the financial challenges facing the next mayor and City Council. This blog post explored one revenue option discussed by a number of aldermanic candidates in the lead up to the election—a local City of Chicago income tax. While the Civic Federation does not have a position on a city income tax and does not support tax increases in the abstract, the post explored how such a tax might work as well as its challenges and merits. Notably, the Illinois Constitution provides that home rule units of governments such as the City of Chicago may only impose a local income tax if that authority is granted by the General Assembly, and it has not done so to date.