Harvey mayor says he'll file lawsuit to get millions in property taxes

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The mayor of Harvey says he'll file a last-ditch lawsuit to get millions of dollars in property taxes that other officials say he cannot collect.

Eric Kellogg claims his South Suburb faces a financial catastrophe without the money, and he's threatened to layoff half of Harvey's police and firefighters.

A local political standoff provoked the crisis in Harvey. But it reflects deeper problems pushing other Chicago area suburbs to the Tipping Point.

One watchdog fears Harvey and some other communities may not be able to recover from the financial crisis they face, comparing them to the ‘Walking Dead.’

“These basically "zombie" municipal governments,” said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation of Chicago.

While Msall suggests Harvey may be a financial "zombie," no one really knows how much money it has. Harvey hasn't publicly released an audit in years, despite a requirement in state law. Its one reason a majority of the city council did not approve a property tax levy that would have brought in about $13 million this year, prompting Mayor Eric Kellogg to threaten massive layoffs.

FOX 32: What'll happen if half the police are fired?

“You're gonna have to watch your back,” said Harvey taxpayer Michael Gibson.

Gibson knows all too well that Harvey's real estate taxes are the highest in Cook County. Like others here, he said he's fallen behind and if he can't come up with $10,000, his home will be sold at auction to tax scavengers.

FOX 32: What do you think would be the impact if half police and fire are laid off?

“I mean, what will the city do? Where will we go? To me it's a disgrace the way the aldermen are acting,” said resident Lemare Young.

After a majority of aldermen refused to approve the property tax, Cook County Clerk David Orr sent a letter saying the county won't collect a penny of it. Mayor Kellogg vowed "legal action" seeking a court order to collect the taxes. 

Watchdogs worry that the State of Illinois is doing nothing to prepare for the day Harvey or another local government runs out of cash and ceases to function.

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