Gary H. Smith
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Cook County Property Owners: Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

By Gary Smith
Cook County Property Owners: Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

When Cook County property owners receive their tax bill each year, it’s hard to remember those dollars are used to fund various municipal offices, administrative costs and various government entities, which includes public schools, libraries, and often park district systems.

Taxes Pay for Schools and More

In most suburbs, at least 50% of property tax dollars go to the public school system. The amount often depends on the premium the local community has on providing education. Higher-rated schools often are surrounded by higher home prices.

Public schools receive funding from several sources, which include the federal government, state government, plus its own fund-raising efforts.

The next chunk of dollars, around 30%, goes to city taxes, which includes funding the city government, public libraries, and infrastructures, such as public parks and roads.  The next portion goes to pay various Cook County government bodies and then to miscellaneous other tax bodies, such as park districts and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Then the final amount goes to pay various pension obligations.

Cook County is divided into three groups—Chicago, the northern suburbs and the southern suburbs—and the property values are reassessed by the Cook County Assessor’s office every three years on a rotating basis among those three groups.

Under the previous assessor, the reassessment process had a lot of issues, so bills sent this past year were created using a different model under the new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi. The first bills sent under this system created a lot of shock because of the difference in values under the new reassessment formula. However, property owners should note that an increase in the assessment does not necessarily translate into an increase in the tax bill.

Generally, reassessments that catch improvements made to the property to increase that property’s value will increase the taxes.

How do Your Taxes Get Paid?

Most property owners, especially homeowners, have their taxes rolled into their mortgage payments and the lender pays the property taxes through an escrow account. Regardless of how the property taxes get paid, all property owners should receive a tax bill at least once a year.

The property tax bill lists the specific allocations for each entity that receives dollars off of that bill. Comparing the bill year to year should provide an idea of where the property tax dollars go