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7 percent 'solution' won't keep jobs here

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by Jerry Roper
Letter to the Editor

The Sun-Times is worried about homeowners' sticker shock from escalating property tax assessments ["Extend limit on increases in annual tax assessments," editorial, April 11], but what about the tax blow dealt to business by the 7 percent assessment cap? Commercial properties across Cook County were socked with $171 million in additional taxes in the first year alone, according to a University of Illinois study.
This law may "maintain the proportion of taxes paid by residential and commercial properties," but it does so at a time when the relative number of residential and commercial properties in Cook County is radically shifting. The residential property market is booming, representing nearly 88 percent of the parcels and 56 percent of the assessed value in Cook County for 2004. So it only makes sense that this class would naturally absorb a larger portion of the "tax pie."
Between 1995 and 2004, residential parcels in Cook County skyrocketed more than 13 percent, adding 168,000 units, while commercial and industrial properties shrank by 7,800 units, or nearly 8 percent. These trends are causing a progressive shift in relative tax burdens among the property classes. The erosion of the commercial/industrial tax bases should be an overriding concern because it means lost jobs and increasing future tax burden to homeowners.
Manipulating assessments to keep residential property taxes artificially low for a select subset of affluent homeowners is misguided and unfair to commercial and residential property owners alike. You sheepishly admit "some homeowners are paying more." It's actually 52 percent of homeowners in Chicago. And the taxpayers most hurt are those who can least afford it, including seniors receiving the senior assessment freeze and homeowners with low value or slowly appreciating homes.
Artificial manipulation of property tax assessments in Cook County is a risky game, and elected officials should not be surprised if their tinkering leads to job loss and a diminished economy. Cook County already boasts one of the highest overall tax burdens in the nation, and continuing to shift property taxes onto business does not bode well for future investment here.
Rather than extend the 7 percent assessment cap and continuing to tinker around the edges of a system that the assessor admits is badly in need of reform, why doesn't he work with the Illinois General Assembly to create a solution -- meaningful property tax reform that adequately funds schools and local government without squeezing any property owners?
Jerry Roper, president and CEO,
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Ronald Vukas, executive vice president,
Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago
William Bornhoff, director,
Chicago Development Council

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