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Assessor touts new law’s tax savings

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Daily Herald
by Eric Krol

Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan estimated Wednesday that 97 percent of Northwest suburban homeowners will get a larger homestead exemption and nearly two-thirds will see smaller property tax bills this fall.

And he credits the property tax relief to a new state law he pushed that caps increases in residential property tax assessments at 7 percent a year and expands the standard homeowner exemption to a minimum of $5,000.

“The message is that the 7 percent (cap) worked. It provided substantial protection in making the reassessment and the cap fair,” Houlihan told the Daily Herald editorial board.

Business groups opposed the measure, arguing that reducing assessments on homes would mean a greater share of the tax burden would fall on them.

Houlihan argued it hasn’t been as bad as businesses feared. His figures showed that in Arlington Heights, for example, commercial buildings bear 23 percent of the property tax burden, a figure that would have fallen to 20 percent this year without his new law.

Illinois Manufacturing Association President Greg Baise said it’s too early to tell what effect the law would have.

“I think it’ll take three or four years to show up,” Baise said.

The law allowed all counties to either opt in or out of the 7 percent cap, and only Cook opted in. While collar counties all opted against the cap, the law did provide for increasing the homestead exemption from $3,500 to $5,000 this year.

Houlihan released estimates on how the cap will affect seven North and Northwest suburbs when tax bills come out around Oct. 1. In Des Plaines, for example, 67 percent of homeowners are projected to have a lower tax bill and 98 percent would have a larger exemption. The median homestead exemption savings from the new law is expected to be $1,261 in Des Plaines.

About 3 percent of homeowners won’t see a larger homeowner exemption, Houlihan said, because they live in neighborhoods where home values aren’t increasing by more than 7 percent a year.

Baise also said the real issue for businesses is the county’s out-of-date property tax system that assesses commercial and industrial property at more than twice the rate of homes.

Houlihan acknowledged the classification system needs updating but said it’s tough. Instead, he plans to go to Springfield to lobby for making the 7 percent cap permanent

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