Park Board Commisioner’s Residency Questioned

Commissioner Leonard Wass’ primary residence is in doubt by fellow commissioners.

To have a seat on the Oswegoland Park District board, one’s primary residence must be within the boundaries of the district. 

Park Board commissioners, who are often at odds with fellow Commissioner Len Wass, claim that Wass, elected to the Park Board in April 2011, does not consider Oswego his primary residence.

At the Park Board meeting last week during the board's tax levy discussion, Wass was vocal for cutting the tax levy by 20 percent, while the rest of the board wanted the levy unchanged.

During the conversation, Wass told the public gathered at the meeting, “They want me off the board so they don’t have to hear me stand up for you.”

That remark sparked a discussion of Wass’ primary residence. Board President Bob Mattingly tried to explain the situation to the public. He and commissioner Deb Krase had discovered earlier in the year that Wass had declared his primary residence to be in Somonauk, which is in LaSalle County.

But earlier he had declared his home in Oswego, on Adams Street, to be his primary residence.

Wass told the Aurora Beacon News this week that he named the Somonauk home as his primary residence for tax purposes and that he votes, lives and was elected in Oswego. Wass said he’s discussed the matter with his lawyers and all say his residency claim for Oswego is legal.

During the tax levy discussion Wass suggested one way to save the district money.

“You want cost savings?” he asked. “Stop spending money investigating me. There’s your cost savings.”

Mattingly told the Beacon the cost so far to the district to study Wass' residency has been about about $1,500.

Harry Kari November 24, 2012 at 02:09 AM
So, the board wants Wass out of there? What is the difference between a 4 to 1 vote, or a 5-0 vote? Wass can't even get a second for any of his motions. Spending money on Wass' residency seems to me, over the top, and wasteful. Can somebody tell me how board's motions come out differently, with or without Wass being on the board? Please avoid the hogwash about "it's the law." That's not what I am asking.
Dave Ruggles November 24, 2012 at 02:19 AM
It isn't fair to compare a body like the park district that can only levy property taxes to the village which can also increase sales taxes, which I believe they did to offset some of their revenue issues. That is why I asked about the community college, which appears is not an entity you are concerned about, even though they levy more than the park district. The park district has made significant cuts, something that is ignored for some reason, particularly in the area of personnel. With the current levy reduction issued by the park district, their levy has decreased more, and yet that doesn't appear to be satisfactory. I also believe there are programs such as the Senior Freeze which are designed to provide assistance to individuals who are facing challenges. In addition, I think most people in the village would be supportive of some sort of subdivision designed for seniors who have limited incomes/assets, that doesn't charge them property taxes for things like schools. I would love to join you in directing our energy there, so that no one has to move out of the community because of taxes, while allowing essential programs like the park district, library etc. to continue to provide the services necessary to make the community desirable. Just a thought.
Jan Alexander November 24, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Dave, we do have people looking into the community college also. We are not just focus on the park district. We all pay property taxes either directly or indirectly though rents. Seniors still pay more even after a freeze because levies go up, and those housing developments are not cheap. There is not an easy one step solution and we welcome you to join the Kendall County Property Tax Revolt Group to share your ideas and make this a better community for Everyone.
Mark A Johnson November 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
The KCPTR Group has people analyzing EVERY taxing body in Kendall County. The Park District is a non-essential government body. They are a luxury - not a necessity. The comment about the Senior Freeze just shows how little people even understand the property tax system in Illinois. Freeze doesn't mean taxes won't go up. When reassessment comes around or another school addition happens, etc taxes do go up dramatically. One senior who came to our rally had a $2,000/yr property tax bill on her 1-bedroom townhome in Oswego last year and now it is over $3,000. Is that a freeze? And she is a widow trying to survive on her deceased husband's $10,000/year Social Security. But let us not forget those poor kids who really need those wonderful parks.
Greg O'Neil November 24, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Um, since when is taking legal tax deductions under the law considered "gaming the system". I wonder why you think the deductions you take on your tax returns are more legitimate? Under IRS rules, the taxpayer, at their discretion may claim residency at any property they own. If you are fortunate enough to own more than one home, you, not some government official, get to decide which one you call your primary residence. Only a fool would pay more taxes than required under the law!!!
Greg O'Neil November 24, 2012 at 09:06 PM
We are concerned with every single taxing body in Kendall County. It is our right to petition the government for a redress of our grievances and paying one of the highest property tax rates in the nation IS our grievance. Affordable home ownership is a fundamental right of an American citizen. Paying excessive property taxes is an infringement of those rights. You won't see any mention of a park or school district in the Constitution, but you WILL see that there are abundant references to private property ownership. We have more government in Kendall County than we can afford. We have way too many boards with taxing authority and this is exactly what led us to some of the highest property taxes in the US. 74% of the voters WANT levy requests reduced by 20%. I think we can live with a plan to do this over several years but we voted to have this done and expect our elected officials to follow the mandate of the electorate.
Dave Ruggles November 24, 2012 at 11:37 PM
No, you shouldn't forget the kids, or their parents. Just because you have moved to a point in your life, where you consider something non-essential doesn't mean it is, or that it is not important. Jan, I wish I could feel comfortable accepting your invitation, but Mark and Greg have made it pretty clear I wouldn't be welcome.
cindy November 24, 2012 at 11:46 PM
It is a ridiculous waste of people's hard-earned tax money to spend on investigating which residence this man spends most of his time at. It appears to me he is the only one who knows how to do his job by following the 20% levy reduction that the residents of Oswego mandated. Let's stop throwing stones and figure out a reasonable way to get our taxes lowered.
Jane Enviere November 24, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Well, for starters, I stipulated that his deductions are "perfectly legal." That said, with your logic, only a fool would decline to take compensation to which he or she is legally entitled - hence Dr. Wendt's severance payment. There is generally no legal obligation to notify an employer that you are considering another position. I think some of you 20%ers want to see school district officials held to a different standard than the rest of the world. They should all work for whatever you feel is appropriate (Which tends to sound like anything that is more than what most of you make is obviously making too much. lol) or take a vow of poverty. I believe that is reserved for priests, not school administrators. lol As I've said before, there seem to be so many Kendall residents who sound like they dream of life off the grid away from the big, bad government. It's kind of funny to read about it. All this effort for a non-binding referendum voted on by people who probably didn't even understand that it doesn't actually change a darn thing. There's something rather odd about someone being so up in arms about how a park district is run in a community that he doesn't even consider to be his primary residence. He should probably focus his time out in Somonauk. We'll be fine without him.
Fred Miller November 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Ms. Enviere, I am one of the people who voted for the 20% reduction, that you say might not even know, that it doesn't mean or change a thing, we understand more than you give us VOTERS credit for, what we really know is that, that the levys that these taxing bodies are putting on us, is causing a lot of families, to walk away from thier properties, and a lot of these, are families that have come to our county just recently, young and seniors. Take a ride, around some the sub-divisions, that are fairly new to the area, check out the for sale signs, it is not that they want to sell, it's because, they have to sell, they don't put a sign on these homes, stating that this is a forclosure, but we know what it is, most of the time. We need to stop slinging mud, and get to work, on how these taxing bodies can lower these levys, at one point our mortgage payments went up 1100.00, IN SIX MONTHS, did this happen to you, so most of us VOTERS do understand what, LOWER MY TAXES mean, so before you make a statement about who understands, what, think about it, who are the newcomers to the county, I come out of the University of IL. and my wife has a Masters from Roosevelt University, Yes we Understand a Lot, of what is going on, and so does a lot of the tax payers in Kendall county.
Greg O'Neil November 26, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Fred, Thank you for the excellent comments, you are right on point. It's no coincidence Kendall County has the highest foreclosure rates AND the highest property tax rates. It's been an all out assault on private property ownership, we have been reduced to tenants, paying rent to our masters, the local government largesse.
Greg O'Neil November 26, 2012 at 04:43 PM
You would be more than welcome, maybe we could talk some sense to you. You have a distorted view of the priorities we should have. Homes come BEFORE parks and schools, neither of which will do you any good at all if you can't make the tax and mortgage payments.
Jerry Bannister November 26, 2012 at 04:46 PM
First off let me say that I don't always agree with Mr. Wass, but I always like that he is stirring the pot. There is more to this than just IRS taxation regulations. The exemptions on real estate are handled on a local level pursuant to State Law and have nothing to do with the Feds. Mr. Wass is claiming the "Owner Occupied" and "Senior Citizen" exemptions on a property in LaSalle County, parcel number 05-08-400-005. These exemptions are covered by statutes- http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=003502000K15-175 and http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=003502000K15-170 You can read them for yourselves and decided if they have any bearing on this matter. If he does "reside" in the Oswego property parcel number 03-17-133-010, then he may be improperly claiming these exemptions on the LaSalle County property, depriving those taxing bodies of amounts owed. Of course that would also mean he is overpaying Kendall County taxing bodies by not claiming those exemptions here. I have not done a complete search of all these properties, but it looks like all the properties in both counties are actually owned by a personal trust. That has no bearing on the exemptions, it's just an observation. Please note the parcel numbers and exemption information are searchable on the internet, directly from the respective Treasurers offices and are public information. Also note that I am using my real name!
Tim November 26, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Except Kendall does NOT have the 'highest property tax rates'. It's not even in the top 10. Did you ever stop to consider the problem is your ability to afford to live here, with the salary you make? Lots of people have no problem affording living in Kendall County. Your poor life choices are no reason to punish other people, who made wiser choices than you.
Dave Ruggles November 26, 2012 at 05:21 PM
If it is not too much trouble, could you please post the link to the highest property tax rate data. I would like to read it myself. Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas.
Concerned Citizen November 26, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Jim, It isn't tax evasion. If it was, the IRS would deal with it. Please stop dramatizing this. They are just trying to get him off the board plain and simple.
Concerned Citizen November 26, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Tim, I have lived here for 11+ years and I have seen my property taxes go from $6000/yr to over $8000/yr even though my house is worth about what it was 11 years ago. It is now more than 2/3 of my mortgage payment (principle and interest). Being able to afford living here is not the issue. It is dealing with politicians who don't make the hard choices and reduce spending. It is easy to spend money. It is difficult to cut spending. We need people who are willing to do so in office. Our value, not affordability, is the issue.
Jane Enviere November 26, 2012 at 07:10 PM
No, my mortgage payment has not gone up because my property taxes are not rolled up into it, nor have they ever been on any home we have owned. Not sure why you are screaming VOTERS or listing your degrees. I have 2 advanced degrees but that really doesn't have diddly to do with the referendum. We also vote. We vote in every election - local, state and federal. Not doing so means you should shut your mouth, in my opinion. No matter what you position is - if you are eligible to vote and choose not to, then zip it. There are plenty of people who don't understand what they voted for. Shocking? I think not. I've had encountered people who are positively giddy at the idea that they expect to see their taxes decrease by 20%. Yeah, good luck with that. It was a non-binding referendum, so it means precious little. It's voicing your opinion. That is all well and good, but I'm pretty confident that's all it will amount to. There will be no grand, sweeping 20% reduction. Heck - most people don't even really understand how property taxes, the levy process, etc. works. Again - not shocking.
Fred Miller November 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I listed them because of the way you worded your comment, about, what people don't understand about what they vote for, I wanted you to understand that I, as a voter, understood, what was on the ballot, and that I was supporting the KCPTR, regardless of it made a difference or not, it is a start to get the county, to understand, that we are tired of being over taxed, when property values are going down, so should the taxes, and I vote at every election, so I think that I have a right to have my say, I wll not ZIP IT, thank you.
Tim November 26, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Dave, here is what you requested; http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/22/taxes-homes-property-forbeslife-cx_mw_0122realestate_table.html (Kendall County is #41... It's not even the top 5 in the state) More data; http://taxfoundation.org/article/new-census-data-property-taxes-homeowners-2 (Kendall isn't even listed in this one.) http://abcnews.go.com/Business/fight-high-property-taxes-top-10-counties/story?id=15912973#.ULPwVFKsHJg (again, not even listed) What's happening here, is a bunch of people did absolutely ZERO due diligence when purchasing their house, and/or are suddenly surprised that all the things that were voted on in the past decade, actually need to be paid for. Like I already stated, the problem is not Kendall County tax rates, the problem is their level of income and attitude. Did the residents not think there was going to be a problem when they protested just about every large manufacturing company? Well guess what, now there are less businesses to spread the tax burden to, and it falls squarely on the residential part of the population. The county has changed, but the people pushing this tax 'protest' don't seem to have noticed. They sound like spoiled children. I can GUARANTEE you that not a single one of them were in line to have their taxes raised when their homes market price was going up in the first half of the decade, but they were certainly in line to take out a home equity loan based on that value. Choices have consequences.
Tim November 26, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Here are the highest taxed counties in the state, in order from greatest to least; 1)Lake County 2)McHenry County 3)Kane County 4)Will County 5)DuPage County 6)DeKalb County 7)Kendall County Kendall County has the LOWEST taxes of any of the Chicagoland collar-counties, and these know-nothings are still 'demanding' that taxes that fund the services that keep their property values propped up in the first place, be cut. For some reason, they think their poor decision making in the first place, will be resolved by further poor decision making, to which they will no doubt place blame everywhere else but where it belongs - on themselves.
Dave Ruggles November 26, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Tim, thank you for the information. I look forward to reading it. I simply don't understand how there can be such a disparity in this debate. I think it is important to deal with the actual figures. Honestly, I was starting to question myself based upon the data that was being presented. It will be helpful to be able to read the data. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
Jane Enviere November 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Fred, did you read my comment? I clearly stated that anyone who is eligible to vote and chooses not to, should zip it. Obviously, since you are enamored with all caps for VOTERS, it was pretty easy to assume that you voted. ; ) I think everyone is tired of being taxed. As a gentleman on here said recently, given the choice, most people would prefer to pay nothing. lol I think most people understand that if you are living in an area of high residential growth, with that comes a need for taxation to support the services required to sustain that population. If people don't understand that, or resent the growth that has already taken place, well, there isn't much that can be done for them. It's pretty unlikely that Kendall County will suddenly become home to so much commercial enterprise that we will see a significant reduction in the residential property tax burden. That's a pipe dream. I am all for responsible expense reduction. I would never support a blanket percentage reduction. I think that's a terrible oversimplification of the issue and, frankly, irresponsible. As for education - well, there are plenty of folks with advanced degrees who don't understand anything at all about the issue at hand. Interestingly, one of the people who was so excited about the chance to see that 20% come off his property tax bill was a physician. My neighbor is certainly well educated but clearly unaware of the realities of this situation. lol
Dave Ruggles November 27, 2012 at 01:18 PM
@Tim, thank you. I read the information you sent and it certainly appears that Kendall does not have the highest tax rates in Illinois. While I could not find such a nice chart for foreclosures, the raw data at http://www.realtytrac.com/mapsearch/?a=b&statesel=il&utm_medium=7&utm_source=137302&utm_campaign=534&accnt=137302 suggest that there are other areas that are more challenged in the foreclosure area.
Pat Stiles November 27, 2012 at 02:07 PM
The median property tax in Kendall County, Illinois is $5,365 per year for a home worth the median value of $248,300. Kendall County collects, on average, 2.16% of a property's estimated fair market value as property tax. Kendall County has one of the highest median property tax rates in the United States, and is ranked 29th of the 3143 counties in order of average property taxes. The average yearly property tax paid by Kendall County residents amounts to about 6.2% of their yearly income. Kendall County is ranked 29th of the 3143 counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.
Tim November 27, 2012 at 02:31 PM
And even though there are 28 counties with a higher rate of tax, there are not 28 other counties with 'tax protests'... Why do you think that is?
Pat Stiles November 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The median property tax in Illinois is $3,507.00 per year for a home worth the median value of $202,200.00. Illinois counties collect an average of 1.73% of a property's estimated fair market value as property tax. Illinois has one of the highest average property tax rates in the country, with only six states levying higher property taxes. Illinois's median income is $68,578 per year - the average yearly property tax paid by Illinois residents amounts to 5.11% of their yearly income. Illinois is ranked 5th of the 50 states for property taxes as a percentage of median income.
mike ellison November 27, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Not only that, but these numbers can be misleading. In the large unincorporated areas of Kendall county there are some services that homeowners pay for separately and are not included in property taxes. I know that most of those areas pay separately for trash pickup and I'm not sure what else the Village of Oswego pays for on behalf of its residents that is not included in the unincorporated areas. But by the time you add in the cost of at least hundreds of dollars per year for refuse then the unincorporated areas have an even higher 'effective' tax rate. Also, those numbers don't figure in the cost of things such as taking classes at the Park District. There might be other areas in the state/country with higher park district taxes, for example, but with lower user fees that offest those taxes. The Ledger did a comparison years ago and showed that the unincorporated areas were more expensive to live in as compared to the villages and cities in Kendall County. It's especially true because the unincorporated areas have been pulled through mud with Oswego's incompetent management of the building boom. We can't vote for anyone in Oswego government, yet have been assaulted by increased taxes as a result of them decidin that every cornfield had to have houses in it.
Dave Ruggles November 27, 2012 at 08:29 PM
In Oswego, the garbage is paid for as part of our water bill. It is not part of the property tax bill. The village pays nothing for my garbage pick up. The negotiate the rate that every resident pays, but we pay it.
Dave Ruggles November 27, 2012 at 08:37 PM
One reason the unincorporated areas are more expensive, is that they lack the bargaining power the city has when negotiating things like garbage and electric bills. While the residents pay these individually, the village has been able to get the prices down because of the collective buying power of all the residents. Individuals who aren't in the village have to deal with the disadvantage of no real negotiating power and pay more. This does not mean that the unincorporated areas have a higher effective tax rate. These items are paid for individually and not as part of any tax.


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