A couple of local elected officials are leaving their posts to move out of state, fed up with rising property taxes.
In the far northwest suburbs, Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka plans to resign this summer when he moves to Alabama. He said his new home in Huntsville sits on more than 10 times the land that his home in Illinois does and costs a fraction in property taxes.
In his short time as village president, he said he worked to lower the tax burden for residents of Lakewood, a village of about 4,000 people in McHenry County. He succeeded in reducing the village’s property tax levy by 10 percent, but he said many residents came to him with higher tax bills than the year before because the other taxing bodies raised their levies, pushing overall property tax bills up.
“I felt like I could fight this thing for another 20 years, but do I really believe at the end that we’re going to save Illinois?” he said. “I just don’t believe it.”
Serwatka faced criticism from residents and other members of the Lakewood Village Board. The local newspaper called for his immediate resignation.
He said he wishes he could have done more, but said he had to take his family into account.
“By the time our kids are in college, a good portion of their college tuition will be sitting there waiting for them just by the difference in property taxes,” he said.
McHenry County College trustee Chris Jenner was laid off from his day job in 2016. Already dealing with his wife’s illness, he resigned late last year and moved to Fort Myers, Florida. He was frustrated that he couldn’t lower taxes for residents that saw property taxes soar.
“Why give all this money to the government instead of saving it for your own retirement?” he asked.
Jenner lost tens of thousands of dollars on his home after a tepid response to paying market value in such a high-tax area.
“We had to lower the asking price by more than $70,000 before we got a single offer,” he said. “It was an absolute nightmare.”
Both he and Serwatka said many homeowners that would want to leave the state were in a situation where their mortgage was worth more than the value of their house, commonly known as underwater.
Then-state Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, resigned her seat in 2013 to move to Texas with her family. In an interview with Illinois News Network, Roth talked about the differences between the states.
“I’m amazed by how prosperous it is down here," she said. "Everywhere you look, there are cranes and buildings going up. This is very much what happens when you live in a business-friendly state with low taxes.”