Surging taxes threatening Illini fraternity/sorority community
A surge in property taxes is threatening the very existence of the fraternity/sorority system at the University of Illinois, the largest of its kind in the world.
Taxes on average have increased nearly 80 percent in the past year alone for approximately 70 buildings near the campus that house students and serve as club headquarters, according to figures compiled by a group of Greek alumni. One fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, has seen its taxes skyrocket from $19,432 in 2016 to $72,972 in 2018, a 373 percent increase in just two years.
The group is seeking relief from the General Assembly after it says it was rebuffed by the City of Champaign Township, which increased the assessed values of the properties.
Chris Disher, class of ‘79 and president of the Greek Alumni Corporation Board Association, told the Chambana Sun that the city told them nothing could be done.
“They told us they needed the money,” Disher said.
The group recently put out a “Call To Action” to Greek alumni members around the country asking them to contact lawmakers in Springfield to drum up support for HB 4914, which would exempt school-approved non-profit dormitories and residence halls from property taxes. The bill awaits action in the Rules Committee.
State Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley), a sponsor of the bill, said that the buildings in the area were “targeted.”
“You didn’t see this kind of increase for other residences,” Pritchard said. “That’s because they vote locally and the students don’t.”
He said that his bill was a way to bring some equity back to the system, citing that the campus dorms were exempt from property taxes.
The alumni group said that Greek life community represents more than 22 percent of the university’s Champaign/Urbana student population; and on average, the tax increase hit ranges from $1,114 to $2,632 per student per year.
Disher said that the increased costs “loom over our mission to provide affordable housing to our members.”
“It’s symbolic of what is going on all across Illinois,” he said. “We (his family) moved to Indiana because we had to have a person in the household working just to pay the taxes.”
Disher says his taxes where he lives now are one-fifth of what they were in Illinois.