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If you live in these areas, your property taxes are about to soar

Thursday, June 20, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

If you’re a single-family homeowner on the North Side or in the central area of Chicago, hang onto your wallet, because you’re about to get clobbered.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough today released her final calculations on new property tax bills that are about to go in the mail.

Countywide, bills should increase about 3.7 percent on average, regardless of whether the parcel involved is a home or a commercial property. But there are wide variations by region and property type.

As a result, average bills in the north and central thirds of the city will be up 11.46 percent and 11.29 percent, respectively. For North Side homeowners, bills will rise, on average, $536.17 to $5,218.84. For those in the central area, the average increase is even higher: $595.60, to $5,869.64.

But in the southern third of the city, where property values have risen more slowly, the hike will be just 0.98 percent for homeowners.

In comparison, homeowners in the suburbs should see their property tax bills rise less than 1 percent on average, Yarbrough said.

For owners of office, retail and other commercial property, the breakdown is about the same, but with lower increases: Average bills will rise 2.99 percent in the northern third of the city and 9.7 percent in the central area, which includes downtown. Average bills actually will drop a tad on the South Side, down 0.08 percent; rise 1.4 percent in the north and northwest suburbs, and increase 1.69 percent in the south and west suburbs.

Part of what's driving the big increases in generally prosperous north and central areas of the city is the sheer increase in property values, which serve as the basis for bills. (Check out the map at the bottom of this story.)

With all of Chicago reassessed last year as part of the triennial revaluation, the total equalized value of all city real estate was up 12.5 percent, pushed by hikes of 12 percent to 20 percent in values in the north and central areas, Yarbrough said.

But total equalized assessed valuation—or EAV—in north suburban areas dropped 2 percent, and slipped 3 percent in south and west suburban areas.

The tax bills themselves are based on a combination of those values and how much in taxes schools and other local governments are seeking.

In a statement, Yarbrough emphasized the new tax rates effectively shift part of the property tax burden away from the long-depressed South Side to much more prosperous areas to the north, where the economy is solid and even booming.

But with the city of Chicago facing a $700-million-plus hole in its 2020 budget, the new figures could pose a real political dilemma for newly installed Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot will be tempted to fill part of the hole by tapping property taxes, a reliable revenue source. But if she does, much of the burden could fall on neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Lake View, Edgewater and North Center, where homeowners already may be in revolt once they see today's new bills, which do not include any increase Lightfoot may order.

Still, the fact that values are rising quickly in portions of the city is good news. That explains why the city's overall property tax rate dropped even as the total tax levy went up.

Overall, according to Yarbrough, the total assessed value of all property in the county rose from $14.4 billion to $14.9 billion, up 5.1 percent.

The new tax bills will be due by Aug. 1.

One note for those who want to protest: Yarbrough doesn't set the tax levy, the amount the government takes. She merely divides the total levy by new assessments, determining the share of the overall levy that each property owner is responsible for paying.


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