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Suburban Cook assessments to drop, effect on tax bills unclear

Monday, May 11, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan announced today he will lower the assessed values of suburban Cook County homes, but it will be next year before taxpayers can figure out whether they got a break.

Houlihan said the reductions are aimed at more accurately reflecting the conditions of the housing market. Chicago is not included because city homes are being re-assessed this year.

The lower assessments will be applied to next year’s tax bills, so any benefit to homeowners wouldn't come until 2010.

Whether individual homeowners will see a benefit--and how much--can't be determined yet. State limits placed on how much Cook assessments can rise each year are being phased out, which also will affect tax bills. And how much tax revenue local governments need will ultimately play a bigger role in the size of the tax bills.

Based on a formula that reflects market conditions, River Forest Township homeowners will soon receive a notice that their assessments will adjusted down by 5 percent, he said. In Cicero Township, the assessments will drop by 15 percent.

Values in the other 28 suburban townships also will be adjusted this year, and each homeowner will receive a notice, Houlihan said.

Businesses won’t get the same break, Houlihan said. So it’s likely that people who own homes in suburbs with little commercial property will see a smaller benefit than those with significant commercial and industrial tracts.

Houlihan was asked whether his decision to adjust suburban values was done to boost his political profile.

“This is not a gimmick,” he said. “This is an effort to be proactive and responsible.”



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