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Cap assessment hikes, Houlihan urges
Assessor renews push for limit to ease tax fears

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan on Tuesday renewed his call for state lawmakers to impose a 7 percent per year cap on increases in residential property assessments in Cook County.

Houlihan has been pushing for the change ever since soaring reassessments of properties in many parts of the city last year led to widespread fears that property tax bills would shoot up as well. But new projections based on data supplied by his office suggest tax bill increases this year will not be as dramatic as the assessment increases suggest.

Nevertheless, Houlihan said the assessment cap is still needed to provide peace of mind for homeowners who fear that rising property values in their neighborhoods could put them in a bind at tax time.

"The assessment cap allows for certainty," Houlihan said. "It allows for our neighborhoods to improve without individual homeowners fearing that they can't remain in that neighborhood. It does not jeopardize any school funding, and it creates a protection against the rise for inflation of property values creating more of a burden on individual homeowners.

"Because of the limits on spending, rates will come down, there will not be a dollar-for-dollar translation of assessment increase to tax increase. That's an important concept to get out to people," he said.

Even an increase of a few hundred dollars in a tax bill could be a big burden to some homeowners, Houlihan said. An assessment cap could help them, he said.

"The system is broke," Houlihan said. "We fund schools inappropriately--from property taxes--making the property tax too high. And in that context, $1 more for an individual homeowner is too much."

The first installment of property tax bills will be mailed out to Cook County property owners this week, but those bills will not reflect the effects of last year's reassessment of city property. That will come in the second installment later in the year.

Houlihan said the cap needs to be enacted by the end of April if it is to be applied to the second installment bills.

Opponents say the cap would primarily benefit the wealthy and would also hurt some school districts. Houlihan says schools wouldn't have their funding limited and that homeowners on the South and West Sides would be key beneficiaries of the cap.



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