The second installment of Cook County property tax bills were due August 1. That includes the city of Chicago, where property owners got their first taste of a record increase the city council passed last year. Some property owners are facing double-digit increases.
After paying the highest property taxes ever levied in the city, many Chicago homeowners had the same complaint.
“For the amount of taxes that my neighbors and myself are paying, we’re not getting the proper services like other neighborhoods get,” West Side resident Steve Lucas said.
That’s because the taxes are not paying for added services. The Chicago portion of the property tax bill – which was increased by nearly 70 percent -will pay for police and firefighter pensions and school construction. Add that to what’s become an annual hike in the CPS operating budget levy.
“Increased every year. (Every year they’re increasing?) Yes, every year,” North Side resident David Chang said.
“(00:15:35)We are much better off today than we were five years ago,” said Alexandra Holt, Chicago budget director.
At Chicago’s City Club, Holt said Chicago’s looming $137 million deficit looks a lot better than $654 million projected at this time five years ago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city had no choice but to raise money for pensions to spare the operating budget.
“There is a real financial cost and economic cost to the city if you don’t address the problem,” Emanuel said.
Former Gov. Pat Quinn has a petition drive underway to appoint a consumer advocate to help homeowners appeal their tax charges.
“The best way to do it is at the ballot box by gathering signatures on petitions like this one,” said former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
The city has scheduled three more tax increases for police and fire pensions and still has not addressed a deficit in the retirement fund for city workers, not to mention a newly-authorized property tax hike to pay for teacher pensions.
“The city says they might have to go up again. Yes, and I might not be able to stay where I’m staying. I’ve been there 40 years and I don’t know if I can stay any longer,” South Chicago resident Doris Hood said.
The city council has approved a plan to rebate a few hundred dollars to the lowest-income homeowners if they apply. It should also be noted that the Chicago School Board is expected to approve a $250 million property tax increase for teacher pensions at its meeting later this month.
According to the Clerk’s office, citizens of Chicago who paid an average tax bill of $3,220.32 in 2014, will pay an average of $3,633.19 on their 2015 bills, an increase of $412.87.
Cook County property taxes are paid in arrears, meaning the bill for 2015 is paid during 2016.
The Clerk’s office says that this substantial increase is due the city being reassessed in 2015, which resulted in a 9.3 percent increase in the equalized assessed value citywide. The equalized assessed value, or EAV, is a multiplier used in calculating property taxes to bring the total assessed value of all properties in Cook County to a level that is equal to 33.3 percent of the total market value of all the real estate in the county.
The Clerk’s office is quick to note that a majority of Chicago’s tax increase is due to the city increasing the pension portion of its levy by $318 million. As a result of the reassessment, the Clerk’s office says the city tax rate actually increased less than one percent compared to 2014.
Cook County is divided into three areas, Chicago, northern suburbs, and southern suburbs, which are reassessed every three years. The southern suburbs were reassessed in 2014. Chicago was reassessed in 2015. The northern suburbs will be reassessed in 2016.
Tax bills for Cook County property owners are due August 1, 2016.