It’s property-tax time again in Chicago and Cook County, and like death, higher real estate taxes are inevitable in the Windy City.
Tens of thousands of Chicago and Cook County homeowners will receive the second installment of their 2014 property tax bills after July 1st, the day the treasurer’s office puts them in the mail. The bill is due on August 3rd.
Real Estate taxes on a Chicago home valued at $200,000 will rise about 2.8 percent—or $90—to $3,327 from $3,237, estimated Cook County Clerk David Orr.
However, there is an elephant in the room no one wants to recognize. What will the 2015 real estate tax hike be with city struggling to raise money for the cash-strapped Chicago Public School system, which has a $1-billion budget hole caused a pension shortfalls?
Add on Chicago police and fire fighter pensions schedule to balloon next year and city property owners could be looking at a tax-hike tsunami in 2016.
Experts say the property tax hike in the city could hit 10 to 20 percent if a new source of revenue such as a city gambling casino doesn’t help fill the money gap.
For a typical Chicago taxpayer, nearly 54 percent of the property tax dollars go to the financially troubled public school system. Funding the cash-strapped city government takes 17.52 percent of property tax dollars.
In addition, Cook County government takes 8.34 percent of the property tax dollars, the Water Reclamation District accounts for 6.32 percent, and the Chicago Park District bite is 6.1 percent.
Chicago currently is undergoing a triennial reassessment this year, and the bill will come due in August of 2016 when the 2015 second installment of the tax bill arrives.
The assessor’s office reassesses the value of each of the 1.8 million parcels of property in Cook County every three years. The reassessment is one on a rotating basis among three regions of Cook County—north suburbs, south suburbs, and the city of Chicago.
Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney, advises that every property owner who believes they are over-assessed should file an appeal now especially if the homeowners believe their house is worth less now than several years ago.
“It is now easier to appeal since all the data about other homes in your neighborhood is online,” Griffin said. “You do not have to go to the library to look up the information or ask your neighbors about their assessment.”
Property owners do not even have to go the county offices to research comparables or file an appeal since homeowners can easily file their appeal online at the Assessor’s or Board of Review web sites, Griffin noted.
For residential properties, the Assessor has determined the assessment by comparing each property to similar properties in a given area.
What can a property owner do to control real estate assessment increases and tax hikes?
First check how your property’s assessed valuation compares with similar properties in your neighborhood. Visit the assessor’s website: www.cookcountyassessor.com, or call 312-443-7550 for comparables.
Also check to see if the assessor has listed all the exemptions for which you are eligible, such as the Homeowners Exemption, Senior Citizen Exemption, and Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption. These exemptions can save you hundreds of dollars in taxes.
If you feel you have grounds for a reduction, file an appeal with the Assessor or the Board of Review. The appeals can be filed in person at either office or at either office’s website. Griffin said there are three key grounds for an assessment reduction:
• Assessor’s error. If you can show the assessor made an error in the description of your property, you may reduce the assessment. However, the error must have a significant impact on the home’s description to reduce assessment.
• A lack of uniformity complaint. This means your home’s assessment is not in line with the assessed valuation of other similar homes in your neighborhood. A homeowner should find at least three examples of similar homes with lower assessments.
• Evaluations approach. Homeowners file an appeal and submit a recent closing statement for their home and/or purchase prices of homes similar to yours to show that the assessed value is greater than 10 percent of the purchase price.
If an initial appeal at the Assessor’s office does not lower the assessed value, there are two other appeal options: the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542), and the Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076). Or, call Michael Griffin, a tax assessment lawyer, at 312-943-1789.
Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit www.escapingcondojail.com.