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Calculating the impact of property tax cap

Monday, April 17, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Gary H. Smith
Letter to the Editor

This is regarding "Homeowners' tax relief" (Voice of the people, March 31), by James M. Houlihan, Cook County assessor. Houlihan's simplification of the complexities of the "7 percent Expanded Homeowner Exemption" results in his own misstatements of the impacts and the nuances of the law.
Houlihan's myth is that a lower homeowner tax bill equates to a reduction resulting from the 7 percent cap. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is needed is transparency and accountability in tax calculations.

We propose that any consideration of the 7 percent exemption include a requirement that each tax bill must state how much one's taxes were increased or decreased as a result of the full impact of the added exemption, including all tax rate adjustments.

The tax bill results from a number of component parts, all of which (except for the assessment that is generated from the assessor's office) are adjusted in relation to the other. When a tax rate is adjusted upward from what it would have been if no 7 percent existed, the "underappreciated" taxpayer pays more.

That is why the unbiased professors at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs published a study that determines " . . . senior freeze recipients receive no additional reduction in assessments and they are worse off because the tax rate increases."

That is why the professors also conclude that 52 percent of all Chicago residential property owners, 33 percent of all northern suburban residential property owners and a projected 49 percent of all southern suburban residential property owners paid and will pay more because of the 7 percent.
The assessor's statement that commercial properties suffered only a nominal cost to protect homeowners ignores the fact that commercial properties paid more total taxes during the time the assessor acknowledges an 11.6 percent drop in the tax rate. His "1 percent more" is a 12 percent increase.

Let the facts dictate the truth. The professors proved the 7 percent is a burden to many; the assessor says no. Whom are you going to believe: the assessor or the professor?
Let the people decide if the 7 percent helps them or hurts them when they read it on their tax bills.

Gary H. Smith

Illinois Property Tax Lawyers Association


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