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County residents to have say on tax cuts for apartments

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County taxpayers will get their say on a proposal to cut taxes for apartment buildings. The County Board decided Wednesday to hold a hearing on the measure next month.

Backers of the proposal believe it would help promote affordable housing. But some board members expressed concern about the taxpayers who would have to make up the difference, including owners of homes and businesses.

"Usually for a tax increase there's a public hearing," said Commissioner John Daley, chairman of the board's Finance Committee, which will hold the hearing. "There was a question whether or not this could be a tax increase. ... We're better off having a hearing on it."

County Assessor James Houlihan had sought immediate approval for the measure, which was presented to the board for the first time on Wednesday. The proposal is also backed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Commissioner Carl Hansen had urged board members to send the proposal to committee for discussion. "We achieved success today," Hansen said afterward.

John Daley said the hearing would likely be scheduled for the week of Feb. 6.

Under the proposal, assessments for apartment buildings would be lowered from 26 percent of market value to 20 percent over a three-year period.

When fully implemented in 2009, apartments in the City of Chicago, for example, would see an average tax reduction of 27.5 percent, according to the assessor's office. The corresponding tax increase for residential and commerical properties would be just 1.9 percent overall.

With so many apartments being converted to condominiums, Houlihan said the measure would help promote a diversity of housing in the county. Affordable housing advocates also support the proposal.

"Providing tax relief for the rental community is as important as helping homeowners," Houlihan said., calling the effect on most property owners "minimal."



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