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Assessments to drop 4 percent
County's action doesn't mean taxes will drop necessarily

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Pioneer Press
by Karen Berkowitz

Evanston homeowners weren't due for a reassessment this year, but these aren't typical times in the housing market.

The decline in home values throughout Cook County prompted Assessor James Houlihan to adjust the assessments for all 30 suburban townships to reflect market conditions in each township.

Evanston homeowners received 2009 assessment notices this week that lopped 4 percent off the assessed value that the county assigned previously in 2007.

The 4 percent figure was the lowest reduction of the six townships announced so far -- a sign that home values may be holding up better in Evanston than in other communities.

"I really do not believe this adequately shows the impact of all of the foreclosures and short sales," said Evanston Township Assessor Sharon Eckersall, citing news reports that distressed sales accounted for 43 percent of all home sales in Cook County within the past 90 days.

"I would say prices are off at least 10 or 15 percent," said Heidt, a longtime Realtor with the Evanston office of Coldwell Banker. "Everyone's impression is that with the downturn in prices, that taxes should go down accordingly."

In Oak Park, assessments were lowered by 7 percent and in River Forest, by 5 percent. Homes in Riverside Township were knocked down 12 percent, and in Cicero and Norwood Park, by 15 percent.

The new 2009 values won't affect property tax calculations until the fall of 2010 and, even then, won't have much of an effect on the taxes paid to the city of Evanston, School District 65 and School District 202, which collectively account for 85 percent of the tax bill. At the local level, tax rates will rise to make up for the 4 percent decline in taxable values.

What the reductions will do is head off a tax shift from the city of Chicago to the suburbs, following Chicago's reassessment this year, for the portion of the tax bill that goes to Cook County and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

"The situation we are facing in the real estate market is extraordinary, and the downturn has had an impact on home values," said Houlihan.

The county is in the process of formalizing a new assessment system that makes it easy to tell if the assessment accurately reflects the home's value. Under the new system, residential assessments will be 10 percent of a market value that more closely reflects the home's sales price, were it to be put on the market. So a home with a $30,000 assessed value could be expected to sell for $300,000. In the past, the assessor's "market values" have been artificially low.

The new system won't increase or decrease the assessment, but will make it easier for homeowners to tell if they are being accurately assessed, according to the assessor.

A full, 72-page list of Evanston Township assessments is published in this week's edition of the Review.

Homeowners can check their assessment records and new market values by Property Index Number (PIN) or street address by clicking on the county assessor link at that lets homeowners compare their assessments with similar properties and appeal their assessments online.

The deadline for filing Evanston Township appeals is Aug. 10.

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