CHICAGO, Jan. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said today that the property tax bill mailed to nearly 1.8 million Cook County owners contains debt figures for every local government that taxes a home, business or other real estate property.
Property owners can use their 2013 first installment tax bill to track how much of that total debt is from their own seven to 20 local governments. The bills, due March 4, 2014, show these categories:
- Money Owed by Your Taxing Districts
- Pension and Healthcare Amounts Promised by Your Taxing Districts
- Amount of Pension and Healthcare Shortage
- Percentage of Pension and Healthcare Costs Taxing Districts Can Pay
"Read your bill to see how much debt your local government is carrying," Pappas said. "We want you to see what's behind the bill."
Pappas said taxpayers "should be aware of how local government debt affects their finances. Just as they need to know how much credit card debt they have, taxpayers should know their local government debt. This information should be a wake-up call: Your local government debt is like having seven to 20 credit cards you may not know you had."
Lawrence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, said the bill not only gives taxpayers information about total debt, but breaks out pension and healthcare costs that threaten to overwhelm local governments.
"By putting these numbers on individual property tax bills, Treasurer Pappas has taken an important step toward educating taxpayers about the crippling level of debt and pension obligations carried by many of our local governments," Msall said. "These obligations are a growing threat to the fiscal and economic stability of our communities."
Pappas said that people have a right to know where their tax money is going, and showing them the debt of the governments closest to them, local governments, "is transparency in its highest form."
Pappas explained that the information comes from the Debt Disclosure Ordinance (DDO), which requires all primary local governments across Cook County to report their financial data yearly to the Treasurer's Office. Pappas also put the DDO data on cookcountytreasurer.com, where taxpayers can look deeper into the finances of the individual taxing districts that claim shares of their tax bill.
"The debt you see on your bill will raise the property taxes that you pay today and your children will pay tomorrow," Pappas said. "We are leaving a debt-filled future to our children."
SOURCE Cook County Treasurer's Office