McHenry County Board chairman pushes Wilcox to fix property tax exemption for disabled vets

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks is putting pressure on state Sen. Craig Wilcox to fix a 2015 law that has allowed the disabled veteran to pay no property taxes on his $455,000 McHenry home.

On Thursday, Franks wrote a letter to Wilcox asking the senator to lead the way to amend the Homestead exemption for veterans with disabilities.

“I implore you to work with your fellow lawmakers to amend the language in [the Homestead exemption] to set a reasonable cap that would prevent our wounded and disabled warriors from being taxed out of their homes, yet require those fortunate enough to afford large, expensive homes despite their disability to pay their fair share,” wrote Franks, who helped write the law when he was a state representative in Springfield.

Wilcox, who served on the McHenry County Board for two years before his 2018 election to the 32nd Senate District seat, said in a statement that it’s an issue he’ll “be looking into.”

“When the veterans’ property tax exemption bill became law in August of 2015, I knew I had a debt to repay. It was one of the motivating factors why I chose to run for public office – to give back and serve in another capacity,” Wilcox said. “For this reason, I am certainly willing to look into all avenues that might help bring tax fairness to the overburdened residents of Illinois. Chairman Franks’ letter has highlighted a number of issues I will be looking into.”

Wilcox highlighted other issues in his statement, including the state’s pension problem and assessment issues in Cook County. Franks said he was disappointed Wilcox did not address whether he would continue taking advantage of the exemption that allows him to avoid paying property taxes.

The Homestead exemption for veterans with disabilities gives veterans a property tax break based on their percentage of service-connected disability. With a disability between 30 percent and 50 percent, disabled veterans get a $2,500 tax exemption. There’s a $5,000 exemption for a disability between
50 percent and 70 percent. Veterans with a disability more than 70 percent are exempt from all property taxes.

“Your home is one of 110 in McHenry County alone that is worth more than $300,000 and claims this 100 percent exemption,” Franks wrote to Wilcox. “In total, they represent more than
$15.9 million in assessed value, which other taxpayers are forced to cover.”

Franks said the legislation was intended to set a $250,000 maximum home value to qualify for a complete exemption, but an oversight resulted in homes of up to $750,000 in McHenry County becoming eligible.