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Cook County tax rates generally stable
But will tax bills follow suit?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Daily Herald
by Ted Cox

With local governments' tax collections tied to the Consumer Price Index in the midst of a harsh recession, many Cook County property owners should see little increase in their second-installment tax bills being mailed out this week, according to Clerk David Orr's Office.

Tax rates for some of the county's 1,500 taxing bodies went down, Orr disclosed Monday. Tax rates for Northwest suburban schools, which typically make up about half of a person's tax bill, dropped or increased modestly, with several exceptions.

Coupled with lower property assessments for homeowners across the county, that should mean few surprises on many bills being mailed out on Wednesday, said Bill Vaselopulos of the clerk's office.

But some areas where rates rose higher could buck that trend, and

one wild card could push individual homeowners' tax bills up, Vaselopulos said.

That's the record 430,000 property assessment appeals filed with the Cook County Board of Review half again more than the previous record of 280,000, and almost a quarter of the county's 1.8 million properties.

Homeowners could see significant increases in their tax bills if many of their neighbors won significant assessment reductions and they did not, or if highly valued commercial property nearby had its assessment lowered.

“Your increases or decreases are due to everyone else's increases or decreases in your area,” Vaselopulos said.

Among the highest tax rate increases for schools, Des Plaines Elementary District 62's rate rose 7 percent and Elk Grove Township District 59's rate rose 7.46 percent, which officials in District 59 attributed to reduced assessed property value in the school district.

During his unsuccessful campaign for Cook County assessor, Chicago Democratic Commissioner Forrest Claypool put out a list of the 300 largest assessment reductions in the county, many of which were in the suburbs. He charged that the Board of Review assessment reductions for big commercial properties would shift the tax burden to homeowners.

Joe Fratto, chief deputy treasurer under Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, said his office did not yet have figures for the average increase or decrease seen in the second-installment tax bills, which will go out Wednesday with a due date of Dec. 13. He said property owners can check their bills Wednesday online at cookcountytreasurer.com.

In the back and forth on the way to setting tax bills, Assessor James Houlihan lowered homeowners' assessments across the county this year, and the Board of Review granted a record number of reductions in assessment appeals. The state Department of Revenue made up for that by setting a record-high equalizer of 3.3701, meant to bring Cook County's assessment levels in line with those elsewhere in the state.

Tax caps limited the increase in tax collections to 0.1 percent, the increase in the Consumer Price Index, in many districts.

Cook County is raising $11.3 billion in property-tax revenue this year, up 1.8 percent from $11.1 billion last year, Vaselopulos said. The lion's share of the increase is in the suburbs, but even at that it's a 2.78 percent increase in suburban Cook County, he said.

Vaselopulos said that with 1,500 taxing bodies creating 2,500 different combinations in tax bills across the county, “to make a generalization is very hard,” but that most homeowners should see little increase in their tax bills.

First-installment 2010 bills will be due April 1, a month later than usual, Fratto said, in part because the second-installment 2009 bills are going out so late this year.



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