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Inaccurate Assessments Could Halt Real Estate Recovery in Cook County

By Gary Smith
08/22/2019
Inaccurate Assessments Could Halt Real Estate Recovery in Cook County

Cook County property tax reassessments have many property owners reeling from the higher valuations, leaving many homeowners still deep under water from 2007 recession.

Homeowners Still Reeling From Great Recession

Most Chicago-area homes are still worth less than they were prior to the Great Recession, yet overall property tax bills keep rising, even after adjusting for inflation.

The last round of assessments, which were the final ones provided under Joseph Berrios’ administration of the Cook County Assessor’s office, were anywhere from 30 percent to 140 percent higher than they were three years ago (Cook County is divided into three segments, with each segment reassessed on a three-year basis).

This hurts homeowners, even more, when coupled with the fact that overall in Illinois, home values remain significantly lower than the national average, which is about 5 percent lower on average than they were in 2007.

How Property Taxes are Calculated

Property taxes are calculated using four factors: the assessment, the equalization factor—or multiplier—the tax rate and the exemptions.

The multiplier is established for Cook County by the Illinois Department of Revenue, to bring property tax assessments in line across the state. The multiplier in 2018 was 2.9109, which was lower than 2017’s and 2016’s.

The tax rate is determined by how much the various services in the county need—including schools, police, and fire as well as the accompanying pensions for those entities. The tax rate in Chicago for 2018 was down $6.786 per $100 of assessed valuation, from $7.266 in 2017.

Unfortunately for property owners, the assessments were the main driver for the high increase in property taxes. The only place property owners can reduce their tax bill is by impacting two of those four factors—appealing the assessment and filing paperwork for exemptions for which they qualify. The main exemptions are homeowners, senior citizens and senior freeze.

There are a few ways property owners can appeal their tax assessment. First, if there’s inaccurate information about the property listed on the tax bill, such as square footage, age, and location of the building, etc.

If all of the information is correct, a property owner can still file an appeal using assessment information from nearby properties that are the same age, size and in the same shape as their property.

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