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Suburban assessments up sharply

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

As legislation to slow big property-assessment increases awaits the governor's signature, reassessment notices hitting mailboxes this week in some northern suburbs show increases as large as those in Chicago last year that prompted action by the General Assembly.

Residential properties in Evanston, for example, have been hit with a median 33.7 percent increase in assessments, compared with the 32 percent median increase in Chicago last year that ignited protest and calls for legislative action.

When Evanston last was reassessed three years ago, the median residential increase was 27.5 percent. That includes residences containing six units or fewer, meaning some of them are income-producing properties.

In Norwood Park Township, the median increase in new assessments is 30 percent, up from 21 percent three years ago.

Evanston and Norwood Park are the first of 13 townships in the north and northwest suburbs to receive notices of reassessment this summer. Those reassessments will be reflected on property-tax bills in the fall of 2005.

Homeowners in Norwood Park Township started receiving reassessment notices a little more than a week ago and have started contacting local officials, said Bill Dammeier, deputy township assessor.

"A lot of this is really out of line," Dammeier said. "How much can a person on Social Security or a small pension afford?"

Assessment value is just one of the variables used to calculate property-tax bills, and actual bill increases typically are much smaller in percentage terms than assessment increases.

The new assessment-cap legislation that Blagojevich has promised to sign should limit increases in most bills calculated with the new assessments.

In essence, it would cap the increase of taxable value for most residential properties at 7 percent a year.

The General Assembly approved the bill last month, and it was sent to the governor's office two weeks ago. Aides have said Blagojevich intends to sign the bill, even though businesses say it will unfairly shift more tax burden their way.

Even if the governor signs the bill, residents still must be vigilant in making certain their assessments are fair, said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a Democrat who lives in Evanston.

The bill before the governor limits valuation increases to 7 percent from year to year for the first three years after a reassessment. Then the property would return to its full assessed value, and it would be time for another assessment. A property that is sold also would return to fully assessed value.

"I'm encouraging everybody to be aggressive on their property and to file [appeals] if they have questions," said Suffredin, who will participate in property-tax forums in July.

Suffredin and other elected officials plan to hold their first Evanston property-tax seminar from 10 a.m. to noon July 10 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., Evanston.

Properties and their assessed values can be searched by property index number or by address at



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