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Bad news: County property tax bills to come early and possibly be more costly

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Already, officials announced Cook County’s property tax bills will be in the mail next week — the earliest in 30-plus years — which means scrounging around for cash during summer vacation season.

Now this: After years of falling real estate values, property taxes are likely to go up or at least stay the same, according to statistics released Tuesday by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Countywide, property owners will collectively pay $11.7 billion in property taxes, nearly a half percent more than last year’s $11.6 billion, according to Orr’s office.

Chicago property owners will fork over $4.1 billion towards the major taxing districts, up slightly from $4.05 billion the previous year.

But those increases – even slight ones - in requests from taxing districts translate to property tax increases, says Bill Vaselopulos, tax extension manager in Orr’s office.

“Just because your value drops, doesn’t mean your bill is going to go down because the taxing districts are entitled to a certain amount of money,” Vaselopulos said.

The money is dispersed to cities, libraries, parks and others that rely on those dollars for payroll and other operating expenses.

Here’s a snapshot of what some of the taxing districts are asking for countywide: The city of Chicago’s request remained about the same at $750.5 million while the city’s park district request fell by about $2 million over the previous year. Meantime, Chicago Public Schools asked for $2.159 billion, up from the previous year’s $2.118 billion, while the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s tax request went from $457.3 million to $476.9 million.

The complicated task of figuring tax bills also takes in to consideration the state-issued equalization factor and, finally, the tax rate — set by the clerk’s office — to meet the taxing districts’ financial needs.

Factored in to the tax bill equation is the Consumer Price Index, currently 1.5 percent, which sets property tax limits — a guide for taxing districts that are weighing a hike in the levy.

This year, dropping assessed values on homes, along with the state equalizer falling, drove the tax rates up in most parts of the county to meet the demands of the taxing districts.

For example, on a Chicago home valued at $200,000 with a homeowner’s exemption, the annual tax bill would be $2,586, up $121 from last year’s $2,465.

The nearly 5 percent hike in that case can be attributed to the sunsetting 7 percent homeowners’ exemption — something that is happening countywide. On top of that the tax rate set by the clerk’s office went from 4.931 to 5.455 percent, according to tax statistics.




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