Leaving Illinois: How simple math chased away a village mayor and his family, by Ted Dabrowski

Take the difference in property taxes between comparably priced property in Illinois and Alabama, invest it for 20 years, and you’re talking real money. From Ted Dabrowski at wirepoints.com:

Leaving Illinois: How simple math chased away a village mayor and his family

If there was one guy you’d think wouldn’t succumb to the pressures of living in Illinois, it’s Lakewood Mayor Paul Serwatka.

He’s a reformer and a fighter. In the past year he’s succeeded where most politicians refuse to go. He lowered the Village of Lakewood’s property taxes by 10 percent and eliminated a TIF district, going against the trend of higher spending and bigger tax bills in communities across the state. And he did all that without cutting services. He was showing Illinoisans what reform-oriented leadership could look like.

But every family that’s chosen to flee Illinois in recent years hit a breaking point and Serwatka finally hit his. For him, it was the risk he wouldn’t be able to care financially for his growing family.

You can’t blame him and those families that have already left. For many, it’s become too expensiveto live in Illinois. For others, good-paying working class and manufacturing jobs have disappeared. And for yet others, they’re tired of being taken for granted and mistreated by their politicians.

At the core of the decision for many families to leave is the burden of higher property taxes. They’ve become punitive in too many parts of the state, as Wirepoints has covered in detail.

That’s true even in Lakewood, a city of nearly 5,000 people located in McHenry County. Residents in that county pay some of the state’s – and the nation’s – highest effective tax rates, measured as a percentage of household incomes.

Serwatka has four young children to think about – ages 3 to 8 – and he did the basic math that many Illinois families are doing in their kitchens or family rooms. They’re comparing what their property taxes are in Illinois to what they could be in other states – and what they could do with all the money they save.

For Serwatka, his comparison city was Decatur, Alabama.

There his family found 10 acres and a house that’s 25 percent bigger than their current Illinois home, all at roughly the same cost. The Alabama house also has access to a private lake shared by some 60 homeowners. And his home in Decatur is only 20 miles from Huntsville, which is booming in all kinds of ways.

What are his Alabama property taxes going to cost him? Just $2,200 a year. That’s a lot lower than the $15,400 he’s paying on the home in Lakewood.

If Serwatka saves that $13,000 difference every year and invests it at 6 percent annually for the next 20 years, he’ll have accumulated savings of more than $600,000 dollars.

It’s a difference Serwatka and his wife, Robin, just couldn’t ignore.

To continue reading: Leaving Illinois: How simple math chased away a village mayor and his family

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