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Charles Selle: Our multiplier marches on, and on

Updated: May 14, 2011 12:31AM

There must be a bunch of public officials in Lake County holding their collective breaths for about the next month until property tax bills come out.

You’ll know them because you won’t be hearing from them. They’ll be keeping themselves scarce until the bills hit the mailboxes and homeowners open them. They’re probably on vacation right now.

According to the state, property assessments in Lake County are at 32.68 percent of market value, based on the three-year average of sales of properties in 2007, 2008 and 2009. They should be at 33 percent.

Because of that discrepancy, the state has hiked our multiplier. That may not mean much to most of us, but those who follow the alchemy that is involved in the arcane business of coming up with property assessments, this could be an eye opener. It’s the first time we’ve seen a multiplier hike like this in more than 15 years.

We have been assured by some public officials this multiplier mechanism will have a minor impact on us. Waukegan Township Assessor Pat Morris, who follows the ebb and flow of property assessments like the batting averages of Major League ballplayers, says “it’s not a big deal.”

Anytime somebody tells me something is no big deal, I start to imagine how big a deal it will be. In this case, I start to multiply it.

The state reminds us that a change in the equalization factor does not mean total property tax bills will increase or decrease. I’ll guarantee they won’t decrease.

Of course, your tax bills are determined by local taxing bodies when they request money annually to provide you services. Most taxing bodies are working feverishly on their budgets now, hoping to beat the state-imposed deadline of May 31.

I used to fantasize it was my public duty to support the body politic with my tax dollars. That was until I saw a list of the public officials who have retired from Lake County bodies of government and now have yearly six-figure pensions. The term cushy doesn’t come close to describing their retirement packages.

These aren’t the public works guys, or firefighters or police officers who have become the focus of the cries for public employee pension reforms. These were their supervisors, their bosses — the village administrators, parks directors, school district superintendents, law enforcement shift commanders.

These were the ones supposedly balancing budgets, making sure communities’ pension allocations were being met, protecting your tax dollars. Turns out one of the few things they were protecting were their retirement payouts.

Remember that when that property tax bill gets to your house. Remember that when you make the deadline dash to get your state and federal income tax forms in the mail. You, too, might fantasize about your public duty to support the body politic.

A follow-up

Before the rains came over the weekend, the three women, moved by the devastation in Japan, who held a garage sale in Grayslake made more than $575 with the proceeds going to AmeriCares, which is aiding the Japanese relief effort. The women say a number of donations came from people who read about the sale in this column. They say, “Thanks.”

Also, Medline Industries, the Mundelein hospital products supplier, announced it is donating $50,000 in medical supplies to Japanese rescue and relief efforts, including supplies for surgical procedures, as well as a government request for surgeon’s gloves and gowns.

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