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These property tax bill increases top the list

Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick


Tens of thousands of Chicago homeowners learned last month that they owed far more in property taxes than a year ago, getting bills that in many cases were higher by 20 percent and more.

Those taxpayers might take some comfort in taking a glance at the 10 biggest residential real estate tax increases in the city of Chicago.

Among those getting socked with tax bills that more than doubled or tripled from last year: former Chicago Bear Matt Forte; best-selling author of "Gone Girl" Gillian Flynn; and Michael Jordan's ex-wife, Juanita Vanoy Jordan.

In all of the top 10 cases, the increases topped 90 percent — and all of the bills went up by tens of thousands of dollars. One increase exceeded $100,000. The properties getting hit with the mammoth increases were in some of the city's ritziest North Side neighborhoods: River North, Near North, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park.

The biggest increase was on a Near North single-family home owned by Bruce Gelman, a partner at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, according to public records. An attempt to contact Gelman was not successful.

His home is a former city electrical substation converted into a 15,000-sqaure-foot, six-bedroom, 71/2 bathroom house. It features a pool, rooftop deck, seven terraces and a four-car garage.

And, according to an online for-sale listing that characterize the home as "fabulous," it can be purchased for $12.5 million. But even if you can plunk down that kind of dough, be ready to pay some hefty annual tax bills. This year, the bill was $168,742, an increase of $104,909 — or 164 percent.

The reason the taxes went up so much for Gelman was because the value of his home, as determined by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios for tax purposes, shot up to about $9.2 million from about $3.5 million. It could have been worse — the home's initial valuation was even higher, but it was lowered on appeal.

Berrios' office provided a list of the properties that experienced the biggest dollar increases in assessed valuation, and weeded out the ones that increased because they were recently built, expanded or dramatically improved.

Because property taxes are calculated based on assessed valuation — the higher the valuation, the higher the bill — it follows that those with the biggest valuation increases saw the largest tax increases. To determine the actual tax bills and changes from last year to this year, the Tribune reviewed online records kept by county Treasurer Maria Pappas.

It's possible there were some homes left off the list of the top 10 because they were in special taxing districts that dot the city. But those exceptions are difficult to identify because of the way tax records are kept. The list also could be affected by claimed tax exemptions, which can lower a home's tax bill based on factors including whether it's a primary residence or if it's owned by a veteran.

Nevertheless, the list certainly includes some of the homeowners hardest hit by a double whammy: the reassessment of properties done every three years by Berrios' office coupled with the record-high property tax increase pushed through the City Council by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to beef up police and fire pension contributions and Chicago Public Schools funding.

Not surprisingly, all but a couple of the homes with the biggest tax increases are owned by people who have been in the public eye. Many are business tycoons or sports stars. The Tribune attempted to contact the owners, but none returned calls.

The second highest increase identified by the Tribune was for a classic Chicago brownstone on the Gold Coast that has 12,500 square feet of space, six bedrooms and eight bathrooms. The home is owned by Dr. C. Joseph Tyree, a dentist and executive partner at Tyree & D'Angelo, a private equity firm. His bill shot up to $147,466 from $65,542, or 125 percent.

Coming in third was a brick, 9,000-square-foot corner-lot mansion in River North that features a private movie theater. It was recently purchased by former Bears running back Matt Forte. His bill rose to $128,269 from $48,408, an increase of 164 percent.

The other top seven:

•An 8,000-square-foot, five-bedroom Lincoln Park brick mansion owned by author Gillian Flynn, of "Gone Girl" fame, and her lawyer husband Brett Nolan. Their tax bill rose to $102,632 from $27,857, a nearly fourfold increase.

•A 9,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Washington Square Park in the Near North neighborhood that's owned by Christopher Lorenzen, founder and CEO of the Eagle Seven Holdings trading firm. His tax bill rose to $144,258 from $74,572, or 94 percent.

•A 7,342-square-foot corner-lot five-bedroom row house with four private terraces in the Near North neighborhood owned by Dr. Irma Ahmed, an ophthalmologist. Her bill rose to $117,743 from $49,632, or 137 percent.

•A 6,254-square-foot, six-bedroom home in the River North neighborhood owned by former NBA player Antoine Walker that, according to online listings, is being rented out as apartments. Walker's bill rose to $119,032 from $52,539, or 127 percent.

•An 8,731-square-foot, five-bedroom River North home owned by a trust in the name of Juanita Vanoy Jordan, the ex-wife of NBA great Michael Jordan. The bill on that home rose to $127,221 from $61,040, or 108 percent.

•A 6,785-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion on a double lot in Lincoln Park owned by Lisa and Christopher Cartwright. The latter is the executive vice president of U.S. information at TransUnion, a credit report company. Their bill rose to $117,922 from $51,808, or 128 percent.

•A 7,917-square-foot house in River North, owned by Teresa Rygielski. Her bill rose to $121,751 from $54,322, or 124 percent.

Although those 10 properties have some of the highest increases in their tax bills, only one of them — Gelman's oversized Near North mansion — made the top 10 list of highest tax bills in Chicago.

The highest bill in the city was on a 14,298-square-foot Lincoln Park stone mansion owned by Donald Wilson, the owner of DRW trading company. His tax bill was $261,524, an increase of $53,276, or 26 percent.

All of the 10 highest tax bills were in Lincoln Park, Gold Coast and Near North neighborhoods. All but three were single-family homes. One was a penthouse in Trump Tower, which came in third with a $223,503 bill, and two were Gold Coast condominiums with bills topping $150,000.

If it's any comfort to the owners of high-priced Chicago homes, they don't top the charts of tax bills in Cook County.

The two highest bills in the county were in Winnetka. The highest bill in Cook County was on a 14,397-square-foot French manor-style home on Sheridan Road in Winnetka that's owned by Terry A. McKay, a co-founder of the Capitol Associates Group development firm and movie mogul. His tax bill topped $300,000. McKay could not be reached for comment.

While eye-popping, his bill wouldn't have come as a big surprise — it was an increase of only a little more than $6,000 from the previous year.

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