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Get ready for some pain: 2nd installment property tax bills are out

Friday, June 20, 2014
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Second-half property tax bills showing up soon in your mailbox will rise on average only 1 to 2 percent from last year but, given declining home values, the real hit will be a lot bigger, figures released today by Cook County Clerk David Orr indicate.

In disclosing new tax data, Mr. Orr said the gross levy countywide will be up just 1.02 percent, to $12.1 billion, with a 1.3 percent hike in Chicago and increases just above and below that amount in suburban Cook County. That doesn't sound too bad.

The report covers not only the city and other municipalities, but also school districts and other agencies that levy property taxes.

But because of the lingering effect of the subprime-mortgage recession, property values are still slipping — 4.4 percent overall in the city, for instance.

That means that, with government still asking for more revenue, property tax rates are up — 6.8 percent in the city and an average of 12 to 19 percent in the suburban areas of the county.

"If values drop and levies remain flat or increase slightly, the rates go up," said Bill Vaselopulos, who heads the clerk's real estate and tax services unit.

Put a different way, as a share of what your property is worth, you'll be paying more, even if your house or commercial establishment isn't worth what it used to be.

In the city, the big tax-hike offender is, as usual, Chicago Public Schools, which raised its total levy 2.53 percent, while the Chicago Park District is up 1.63 percent. The city and county are flat.

Mr. Orr's figures are for bills that are going in the mail this week and are due Aug. 1. The bills cover 2013, since property taxes have been paid a year late since the Great Depression.

Mr. Orr also announced that, for the first time, those who own property located in tax increment financing districts will be informed on their bill what share goes to the TIF district, as opposed to regular taxing bodies, like the city and the Board of Education.

About a fifth of the property in Chicago is located in a TIF district. Mr. Orr, who has been critical of the TIF program, said the new data will give landowners a better idea of where their taxes are going.

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