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Tax revolt keeps rolling

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Faced with double-digit property assessments, Rogers Park and Lake View Township homeowners' last week wrested control of a community meeting intended to be a property tax appeals workshop and turned it into a revolution.
Billed as a "Rolling Revolt," the June 22nd turnout of more than 300 homeowners organized by the Tax Reform Action Coalition (TRAC), told Cook County Assessor James Houlihan and other elected officials, that "enough was enough."
Other officials at the meeting hosted by the Cook County Assessor's office at Illinois Masonic Hospital, 836 W. Wellington, included State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-12), and aldermen Vi Daley, 43rd, Tom Tunney, 44th and Ted Matlock, 32nd.
"Thirty years ago we were being chased out of our neighborhoods by gangs, now its property taxes," Lake View resident Allan Mellis shouted at the stage full of elected officials.
With 2006 property assessment notices being mailed to the city's eight townships this summer and fall, average increases are projected at 41 percent. Rogers Park Township homeowners received their assessments in April; Lake View Township homeowners got theirs in May.
Houlihan called for an extension of the 2003 Expanded Homeowner Exemption that will continue to provide relief to city homeowners facing skyrocketing assessment increases and the resulting increases in their property tax bills. The law is set to expire for the 2006 assessment in Chicago this year; subsequent assessments for the north and south suburbs in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
The current law limits assessment increases for many people to 7 percent a year up to $20,000, or slightly more than 21 percent for the triennial cycle. While the Illinois Senate approved extending the 7 percent cap, including a measure to raise the equalized assessed value or "cap on the cap" from $20,000 to $60,000, Senate Bill 2350 was killed in the Illinois House of Representatives in April.
Houlihan and other supporters of the bill hope to get it revived at the Illinois General Assembly's veto session schedule for Nov. 14.
"It is very important for our area and for your interests that the Speaker of the House (Michael Madigan) understands that this city cannot allow the 7 percent cap to lapse," Houlihan said.
TRAC president Barbara Head complained that 75 percent of city residents had blown through the $20,000 cap this year. She said the tax reform advocacy group will use the recess period to apply pressure on both houses of the Illinois General Assembly to extend the 7 percent cap for the next triennial cycle and push for long term property tax reform.
Head said that Madigan has wrongly portrayed the bill as a "rich person's bill from the North Side" that has scared downstate legislators from supporting extending the 7 percent cap as well as any long term reform, including acquisition-based assessing.
"The maximum amount of relief was limited by the cap," Head said. "I have no idea what Madigan is going to do. He just doesn't care about people. He's the kind of guy who would pull the wings off of Tinkerbell in front of a bunch of kids at Disneyland."
"Look around here tonight. Do you see any rich people?" Head asked. "Sections of the South Side are going to get hit even worse. Bronzeville and parts of Lawndale will see increases of over 100 percent in their assessments."
TRAC is encouraging homeowners to write their assessment increases on their current notices and send copies of TRAC or turn them into their neighborhood organizations. Head said the group has received about 200 assessment notices from homeowners since the 2006 assessments went out in April and vowed to send them to every elected official, including Mayor Daley and the city's aldermen, as well as members of the Illinois General Assembly.
"It's a rolling tax revolt. Every opportunity we get to tell every elected official to change or else we may vote you out of office. Businesses have funded a lot of these lobbyists who have opposed the 7 percent cap. Businesses don't vote, people do, homeowners do. I think the message was pretty clear tonight.," Head said.

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