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Aldermen warn of 40% jump in property taxes
'GOING TO GET CLOBBERED' | Say Speaker Madigan's plan -- now backed by Daley -- would change neighborhoods

Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRAN SPIELMAN

Chicago homeowners could see their property tax bills rise by 40 percent over the next three years if the Illinois General Assembly follows House Speaker Michael Madigan's lead and phases out a 7 percent cap on annual assessment increases, a dozen aldermen warned Monday.
"They're really going to get clobbered in years two and three. . . . People are going to be forced out of our neighborhoods -- and God knows where they're going to end up," said Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th).
The 7 percent cap was imposed in 2004 to quell a property tax revolt triggered by skyrocketing assessments in 2003, the last time Chicago was reassessed. For more than a year, Mayor Daley and Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan have sounded the alarm -- and urged lawmakers to renew the cap.
Madigan's version, approved by the Illinois House and now awaiting Senate action, would phase out the 7 percent cap on property assessment increases over three years and grant new deductions to people with less than $75,000 household income who have lived in their homes for at least 10 years.
Daley has signed off on the Madigan bill, even though 49 aldermen have signed a letter to state lawmakers voicing their concerns. The only exception was Madigan's handpicked alderman Frank Olivo (13th), who was out of town and unavailable for comment.
On Monday, a dozen aldermen held a City Hall news conference to urge the General Assembly to do the politically unthinkable in Springfield and buck the powerful House speaker.
Without a full-fledged renewal of the 7 percent cap, they warned of a "median increase of 40 percent" in Chicago property tax bills, the bulk of it coming in the 2008 and 2009, when the cap would be phased out.
"Homeowners who don't qualify . . . will see an increase of $900-to-$1,900 in their tax bills during the last two years," Schulter said, warning that the fabric of Chicago neighborhoods would "totally change."
Newly elected Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he ran into people on the campaign trail who are on the verge of losing their Bronzeville and Garfield Park homes because they can't afford their property taxes.
Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown insisted that the speaker's version "provides substantial relief from the assessment problems going on in Cook County. . . . We're not interested in giving huge tax breaks to people buying expensive homes."
Deputy mayoral press secretary Jodi Kawada said Daley signed on to Madigan's plan only after Houlihan's version was overwhelmingly defeated. Now that the General Assembly is in overtime, a super-majority vote is an even longer-shot, she said.
"The reality of this legislative session is that we are at risk of ending up with no relief for homeowners," she said.


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