Some Madison County homeowners are upset about higher taxes and many of them have no clue why their bill went up.

As Madison County Treasurer, the No. 1 complaint I hear is about tax increases.

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Let’s be clear: the treasurer doesn’t “set” property taxes, but only collects them. Property owners vent their frustration to the person whose name is on the bill.

This year, the majority of the calls are coming from people in Alton and Godfrey.

Why? In August, the Alton School District decided to issue $11 million in working cash bonds . . . without voter approval. That increased the schools’ portion of tax bills by nearly 10 percent.

Taxpayers didn’t vote on the matter because it was done as a backdoor referendum. Simply put, that’s when a taxing district takes advantage of a loophole in Illinois law to borrow money without voter approval. Of course, taxpayers are still on the hook.

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Many school districts use this technique.

In 2013, the Madison County Board also used this “backdoor” method to issue $18.8 million in bonds for a jail renovation. Citizens gathered 26,200 signatures to force this issue onto the ballot, where voters rejected it 2 to 1.

Think of it this way. If your spouse takes out a credit card without your knowledge, are you responsible for the debt? You betcha!

As a taxpayer, you are married to the taxing districts. And you can’t get divorced.

Kurt Prenzler, CPA

Madison County Treasurer

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