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Local Editorials

Here come the tax dollars; a call for good stewardship

Second installments of real estate taxes are due next week. Then millions of dollars more will be disbursed to local governments. We call on officials to be tight-fisted stewards of that money.

Monday will mark Labor Day, when many people have a day off to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

A few days later, though, reality looms in the form of local property tax deadlines.

County treasurers across the Sauk Valley will be collecting the second installments of real estate tax bills, which represent a hefty chunk from the same fruits of the region’s collective labors.

On Wednesday, second real estate tax installments are due in Carroll and Bureau counties.

Thursday is the second installment deadline in Whiteside County.

And on Sept. 5 (Friday), taxpayers in Lee and Ogle counties will face the music.

The amount of money raised by the real estate tax collection system is no small potatoes.

Whiteside County taxpayers owe more than $69.6 million in 2013 taxes payable in 2014.

In Lee County, taxpayers owe about $57 million in last year’s taxes payable this year.

Even as tax dollars flow in, tax disbursements flow out.

For example, according to the Lee County treasurer’s distribution summary, available on the county’s website, disbursements were made on July 3 and Aug. 8.

So far, the Dixon School District has received about $6.4 million.

Amboy schools have gotten nearly $3.1 million.

Sauk Valley Community College has received more than $1.1 million from Lee County taxpayers.

The county government itself has received more than $2.7 million.

What about municipalities?

The city of Dixon received nearly $1.5 million in disbursements thus far.

The city of Amboy took in nearly $124,000.

By contrast, the village of Nelson received exactly $1,926.80.

Illinois’ penchant for multiple units of government is especially evident when tax dollars are disbursed.

We’ve already mentioned Dixon’s schools and the city. Here are other Dixon disbursements made thus far, in round numbers:

Dixon Park District: Nearly $387,000.

Dixon Township: $179,000.

Dixon Township Road and Bridge: $182,900.

Dixon Rural Fire Department: $756,000.

Dixon Central Business District TIF: $111,700.

Dixon City Riverfront TIF: $69,400.

And after the second installment deadline passes, more disbursements will be made.

It’s one thing to collect and disburse the people’s money.

It’s another thing for units of government to spend it wisely.

We urge elected officials who exercise the power of the purse – from cities, counties and school districts to library and drainage districts – to be skeptical of government spending in their particular bailiwicks.

Ask questions. Seek answers. Make sure every decision to spend is justified.

We’re talking about millions of dollars here, contributed by thousands of hard-working people.

Those dollars deserve tight-fisted stewardship.

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