Freeport REALTORS® have recently engaged their city council over two issues affecting property owners. The city of Freeport is considering a vacant property registry as well as a property tax levy increase.
The proposed vacant property registry allows the city to broadly determine vacant property. It requires a $200 annual registration and a $500 “periodic” inspection regardless of the size of the structure.
City officials initially defended the incredibly high fees because of the cost of tracking down property owners and enforcement. REALTORS® argued that individuals with vacant properties complying with the city’s ordinances should not bear the regulatory and financial burden of those scofflaws ignoring it.
Freeport officials agreed to tighten the definitions of a vacant property and to adjust the fee schedule to more realistic costs. REALTORS® also asked that the Fourth Amendment rights of property owners be codified in the ordinance regarding inspections so all officials and residents are aware of the process.
Like many local governments, Freeport is struggling with declining property values affecting its tax base. Additionally rising health care, labor, and a city hall that is no longer structurally sound, have increased the strain on its budget.
Unfortunately, for property owners four options have been presented to the city council and all of them call for raising the property taxes, some options beyond the rate of inflation (allowable because Freeport is home rule). Property owners could see their bills rise $10 to $110 per $100,000 assessed valuation.
Alderman agreed with REALTORS® and asked for more non-property tax revenue and spending reduction options to be presented to the council before deciding.
REALTORS® will be closely monitoring these developments. Proposed changes could be coming as early as December 5.
Conor Brown is the Illinois Association of REALTORS® Local Government Affairs Director representing the McHenry County Association of REALTORS®, Rockford Area Association of REALTORS®, Belvidere Board of REALTORS® and the REALTORS® Association of Northwestern Illinois (Freeport/Galena)