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Measure boosting property tax breaks goes to Quinn
Increase for Seniors would first go into effect in Cook; regular homestead exemptions also changing

Saturday, April 13, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by Rafael Guerrero

Senior citizens in Illinois could save more money on their property tax bills under legislation awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, but Cook County homeowners would be the first to get the break.

The changes are part of a measure that would also increase regular homestead exemptions for Cook County households, a move aimed at softening the blow of tax breaks that are going away.

The proposal, approved last week, was hailed as tax relief by lawmakers from both parties and backed by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, the Democratic Party county chairman. "We are choosing to expand an exemption for seniors and regular homestead folks like you and I," said Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican who also is the Fremont Township assessor.

Under the legislation, the senior citizen homestead exemption for tax year 2012 in Cook County will rise from $4,000 a year to $5,000 for property tax bills that go out later this year. The rest of the state's counties will see the exemption rise to $5,000 for the bills for the 2013 tax year. Those property bills go out during 2014. Property taxes are paid one year behind in Illinois.

The new exemption level could save seniors from $55 in Chicago to more than $200 in the southern suburbs, according to Berrios' office. Senior household exemptions last increased in 2007, officials said.

"As we continue working to rebuild our economy, it is important that seniors receive the vital services and support that they need," said Democratic Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., co-sponsor from Elwood. "This additional tax relief will greatly help the seniors across the state and allow them to remain in their homes without the fear of being taxed out of them."

The legislation for regular homestead exemptions for Cook County residents is meant to alleviate changes that would come with the expiration of a statute frequently called the 7 percent homeowner exemption, a tax break put in place several years ago in the wake of rising real estate values. The 7 percent exemption has expired in Chicago, lowering the exemption from a level of $8,000 a year.

Without the change in the legislation, the maximum reduction would be $6,000 in Chicago. The bill increases the household exemption to $7,000 in Cook County, beginning with the 2012 tax year for Chicago, Berrios said.

Northern Cook County would remain at a $12,000 exemption for the tax year 2012, billed in July, and would be at the $7,000 level beginning in tax year 2013, Berrios said.

Southern Cook County would remain $16,000 for tax years 2012 and 2013, and would move to the $7,000 level in 2014 tax year, Berrios said.

Tribune reporter Ray Long contributed.

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