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North Side Tax Hikes Are Mild, But Wait Until Next Year

First of two articles on property taxes.

For many North Side Chicago homeowners, the second installment of 2020 property tax bill reflects the “Covid-19 assessment adjustment,” so the bite isn’t as bad as earlier years.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi determined that the pandemic caused a “significant economic downturn, and lower property values” depending on the property’s type and location.

In Chicago, the Covid-19 assessment-value reductions average 10%. They range from about 7.5% in Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Uptown, and nearly 8% in the Loop, River North, Old Town, South Loop and Bronzeville. The reductions are about 9.5% in Rogers Park and West Ridge, and range as high as of 12% on Chicago’s South Side.

In Chicago, tax bills vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood, according to an analysis of nearly 1.8 million bills by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office.

The county will collect more than $16.1 billion in property taxes this year. That’s an increase of $534 million, or more than 3.4%, from last year. Second installment bills were posted online on August 12th and will be mailed to taxpayers this week. The bills will be due on October 1st.

About 84% of business property owners, compared with half of homeowners, are being billed more than last year, the Pappas analysis reported. The median residential tax bill is $3,341, down by $1.63, or .05%. The median commercial tax bill is $9,659, an increase of $761, or 8.6%.

The Home Front column compiled the following 2020 tax bill analysis, which reflects the Covid-19 assessment reduction:

  • Old Town. The investor-owner of a 4-flat Victorian brownstone building in the Old Town Historic District paid a bill of $25,331, down 3.7% from $26,285 in 2019.

  • Lincoln Park. The resident-owner of a brownstone 6-flat received a bill of $21,652, a slight decline from $21,701 in 2019.

  • Logan Square. The resident-owner of a graystone 4-flat north of Logan Boulevard paid $12,144, a slight decline from $12,318 in 2019.

  • North Lincoln Square. The investor-owner of a yellow-brick 4-flat building received a bill of $7,643, down 3.6% from $7,923 in 2019.

  • West Ridge. The resident owner of a 2-bedroom condominium in a 19-unit walk-up building paid a bill of $1,102, down 2.2% from $1,127 in 2019.

  • Irving Park. The owner of a stucco bungalow in the Villa Historic District received a bill of $10,145, up a hefty 7.3% from $9,447 in 2019. Close analysis showed the increase likely was due to lost Homeowner and Senior Exemptions.

Crystal-ball gazing into the outlook for the expected 2021 property-tax hike, payable in 2022, is cloudy, experts say. The city of Chicago is under-going triennial reassessment this year, and heft tax increases are expected when the second installment of the bill arrives in August of 2022.

“The property-tax bill is determined by four factors: the assessment, the equalization factor, or ‘multiplier,’ the tax rate and the exemptions,” said Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney.

Homeowners should review their exemptions because they can reduce their tax bill if they have the proper exemptions applied to the bill, Griffin noted.

The three primary exemptions are the Homeowner’s, Senior Citizen, and Senior Freeze. The Homeowner’s exemption recently was increased to $10,000 from $7,000, and the Senior Exemption was hiked to $8,000 from $5,000.

Those amounts are deducted from the equalized assessed value of a home to which tax rates are applied in order to determine the individual tax bill.

Also, more seniors can qualify for the Senior Freeze because the Illinois Legislature recently increased the maximum annual income to receive the freeze to less than $65,000 from less than $55,000.

“Every homeowner should review their tax bill to see if they received the proper exemptions and contact the assessor if the exemptions are incorrect,” Griffin advised.

However, predicting a hefty property tax increase when the 2021 bill arrives in 2022 really centers on two wild cards—the tax rate and the state equalization factor, which can’t be challenged by taxpayers.

The equalization factor, or “multiplier,” is established each year for Cook County to bring property tax assessments in line with other parts of Illinois. The factor is determined by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The main engine that drives up property-tax bills is the amount of money spent by local government. For example, homeowners who read their 2020 tax bills will see the continued increased spending for schools and police, firefighter and teacher pensions.

Property owners who think they are over assessed should appeal now, Griffin advises.

Visit the assessor’s website:, or call 312-443-7550 to find comparable properties or start the appeal process.

The Assessor is now working through the appeals process for 2020. For 2020, all of Chicago is being reassessed.

A taxpayer can file with the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542) or and later with the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076), or Or, call Michael Griffin, an expert tax-assessment lawyer, at 312-943-1789.

NEXT WEEK: Two Chicago homeowners’ tax exemptions mysteriously disappear and their bills skyrocket.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

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