So, we’re riding the elevator from the third floor to the Treasurer’s Office on the second floor, where I’m supposed to take the annual, traditional photo of Chris Lauzen paying his property tax bill, and the chairman of the County Board is chatting about his bill just as you and I might.
The Lauzens live in Aurora, and their property-tax bill went up about $600 this year, which he said was primarily due to an increase in the West Aurora School District portion of the bill. Lauzen wasn’t griping, just stating a fact and maybe underlining why he feels it’s so important for Kane County to keep its portion of the tax bill — about 4.5 percent of the total bill — in check.
“Take a look at this,” he says, and he hands me a bar graph printed out from a recent “State of the County” address and PowerPoint presentation he made recently for Metro West. “This is really what it’s all about.”
Lauzen is passionate about the topic — as I’m about to witness firsthand during the next 15 minutes.
The chart shows that Kane County’s property-tax levy went up from $36.2 million in 2003 to $54.3 million in 2010. But since then, it has levelled off — and it’s been locked at $53.9 million for three years, from 2011 to 2013.
That’s one of two reasons Lauzen likes to have his picture taken when he makes the annual pilgrimage to the Treasurer’s Office on the second floor of Building A at the Kane County Government Center.
The first and probably most important reason for the photo op is the simple reminder that the due date is coming up. This year (the 2014 bill for the 2013 levy), the first installment is due is June 2, and the second on Sept. 2.
I like those reminders and wrote plenty of them myself when I was editor of Geneva Patch. (See “Egads! The Property Tax Bill’s Due Wednesday!“)
Because the due date is so early in the month and follows on the heels of the Memorial Day weekend, it’s easy to forget until the last minute, and there’s usually a line of cars at the Government Center on deadline day. You can pay in person, by the way, at the Treasurer’s Office or via the drive-through on the east side of Building A. (You can also pay online or at a bunch of banking institutions. Read more here.)
The second reason Lauzen likes to pay in person is he gets to talk to actual taxpayers. In fact, it’s hard to get him to stop.
He shakes their hands and passes out a copy of that graphic and sympathizes and chats — and then he does something that’s pretty unusual for a politician, at least, in my experience: He thanks them for paying their tax bills.
When he finally does get to the counter, he starts chatting with the desk clerk, and it’s obvious the guy is having too good a time.
“You know, I really shouldn’t be smiling so much when I pay my tax bill,” he says.
“But you know, I just can’t help it.”