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Taxes to jump, but how high?
Property rate tied to exemption's future

Monday, March 26, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Chicago homeowners should brace themselves for a property tax increase when bills are sent out this fall, according to a new study to be released Monday.

The amount of that tax hike will depend on the fate of legislation currently pending in Springfield.
The study released by the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, shows that the median tax increase for Chicago homeowners will be 18.4 percent if the current system of limiting the impact of assessment increases is kept in place.

If that system--the so-called 7 percent assessment cap--is allowed to expire, Chicago homeowners will see their bills jump by a median of 43.6 percent, the study found.

That is higher than figures released in a November Civic Federation analysis because the group now has more complete data to review, said Laurence Msall, the organization's president.

The study will be available Monday on the group's Web site, www.civicfed.org.

The 135-page study is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the 7 percent tax cap, which was signed into law in 2004. The cap will expire this year in the city of Chicago and in suburban Cook County over the next two years unless the General Assembly approves an extension.

Although the law is commonly referred to as a tax cap, it is really an expanded homeowner's exemption. The amount of that exemption increases from $5,000 up to a maximum of $20,000 to keep a house's taxable assessed value from rising more than 7 percent a year.

The Illinois Senate has approved a renewal of the law that would increase the exemption limit to $60,000, a version favored by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County Assessor James Houlihan.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan supports keeping the exemption limit at $20,000, spokesman Steve Brown said. The Civic Federation has also endorsed retaining the current limit.



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