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Large crowds of Evanston residents turn out to appeal property tax assessments

Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by Genevieve Bookwalter•

Some Evanston residents’ property assessments jumped more than 50 percent in recently released calculations by the Cook County assessor’s office, officials say.

Hundreds of people packed a meeting hosted by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin in hopes of appealing their assessment and lowering the cost of their 2020 tax bill. Suffredin said about 40 people have visited his Evanston office every day to ask about appeals since the new assessments were mailed out earlier this month.

Appeals for Evanston residents are due April 15.

“People panic when they see the numbers,” Suffredin said.

That’s because a jump in this year’s assessed property values could translate into a jump in next year’s property tax bills.

Evanston is the second Cook County township to be reassessed by new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.

Assessments are done on a rolling timeline. New assessments for homes in New Trier Township were mailed around April 1. Assessments for Niles Township should be mailed in September.

Residents in each township then have 30 days to appeal their assessment, Suffredin said. Reassessments are done every three years.

According to Suffredin’s office, Evanston residents who live along the lake saw their assessed home values increase by a median of 50 percent, the highest of any area in the city. Those who live in the south and southwest neighborhoods of Evanston saw their assessments rise by a median figure of 6 to 19 percent, he said.

The median increase in assessed home values for all of Evanston is about 26 percent, Suffredin said.

The Cook County Assessor’s website listed the median percentage increase in assessed Evanston residential property values at 8.56 percent between 2016 and 2019. However, spokesman Scott Smith said that figure does not include all residential properties, only ones that were sold within the three-year period.

A new report that considers all residential properties was expected to be released on April 2, he said.

Suffredin said the assessed value of a home listed on an owner’s property appraisal should be 10 percent of the home’s fair market value, or what an owner could expect to receive for it if it was sold.

The assessor’s office makes a lot of assessments and might not get them all right, Suffredin said. That’s why it’s important to appeal not just to the assessor’s office but also to the Cook County Board of Review, he said.

The Cook County Board of Review is made up of three county commissioners and hears appeals of property assessments for residential, commercial, industrial and condominium properties, as well as vacant parcels, according to the board’s website.

Evanston residents living along Lake Michigan traditionally have appealed their assessed property values at higher rates than those in other Evanston neighborhoods, according to figures from Suffredin’s office.

At a recent meeting in the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, hundreds of Evanston residents cycled through the room to listen to Suffredin explain why assessments had jumped and what they could do about it. Suffredin’s staff, which includes Evanston Ald. Cicely Fleming, passed out applications that residents could file that night to appeal their assessments.

Resident Wole Osilaja said he has lived in Evanston for 30 years and is “always surprised” by his newly assessed home value. However, he said, he has successfully appealed before and hopes to do so again.

gbookwalter@chicagotribune.com



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