Jeff McGrath has been fed up about his property taxes going up for years in McHenry County, Illinois. However when McGrath was told that taxes would go up another 26% this year and nobody could provide any explanation for it, he had enough, and decided that a statement needed to be made.
That statement, as it turns out, was to pay the first installment of his commercial and residential property taxes in single dollar bills. McGrath said that by doing so, perhaps someone would relay that to the tax assessor that people are not happy about what's taking place.
"I built my house in 1999, here in Woodstock inside the city limits. The first hint I got was a $13,000 permit fee so that we could even start building. The taxes in the first year and the second year were like $2,500 a year and then seventeen years later, this year they jumped 26%, and I'm at $11,600 a year, and no one can explain why. Why 26% in one year, I didn't change anything, I didn't build anything, I didn't add anything, it's just out of control."
"Out of frustration, I said that because the tax bill jumped like that for no explanation then I'm going to pay it in single dollar bills. I would like to pay it in change but they don't accept that. I started gathering up singles, and a lot of them, the first installment for my commercial property and my residential was almost $16,000 in singles. The company, I gave them $9,995 singles because the accountant advised not to go over $10,000 because you'll draw an IRS tax notice, so they got $9,995 in singles and then they got a check for the difference. And my residential property I gave them all singles for that as well."
"The reason why I did it was because I was hoping that they saw an average Joe show up angry displaying his displeasure that maybe they would mention it to the assessor, maybe they would mention it to the assessor's boss. Maybe they would say 'hey look, whatever you guys have done has drawn a red flag, people are angry."
McGrath isn't just sitting around waiting for taxes to get magically lower though, he purchased land in Wisconsin and is planning to build a house and a new business there in the future in order to escape the Illinois taxes.
"Something has to change, otherwise we're packing up and we're moving on. A couple years ago I bought residential property in Wisconsin, it's just empty land that I was going to build my future house on. Last year I bought commercial property in Wisconsin as well to develop another business similar to the one I currently run in hopes that the taxes won't be so overpowering there."
McGrath wasn't the only one to pay taxes this way, Dan Aylward also paid his McHenry County taxes in singles as well. Aylward arrived with neatly bundled packages of singles stacked inside a black suitcase, along with two dimes to pay a bill of $5,734.18. "I gave them the two cents for my opinion" Aylward said.
Aylward went on to explain that "the American dream is to own a home. My home is more than the American dream. To me it's part of my family. When I leave this driveway because I'm forced to sell it because I can't afford to pay the taxes anymore, I will cry. I will fight with every breath that I take."
McHenry County treasurer Glenda Miller said that as a taxpayer herself, she understands the frustration but paying taxes with loads of cash hurts her employees who are not at fault. "I understand your grief, but I don't know what you are going to prove by putting more burden on my staff in processing your payment" Miller said.
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To say that Illinois finances are a disaster is an understatement. The state remains without a budget, and as its fiscal year ends soon, it will go into its second year without a plan to address the massive deficit. Residents have already started to leave the state, and as evidenced by McGrath, even more are planning to. The state will continue to lose its tax base, and devolve further and further into complete insolvency - but hey, the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central, so who cares right?
Finally, a question: why pay with singles - the much desired currency of choice at every "gentlemen's venue" around the globe - when quarters, nickels and dimes would serve even better?