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Most Second Installment Residential and Commercial Property Tax Bills Higher

Tuesday, July 07, 2020
Evanston RoundTable
by Bob Seidenberg

Second installment property tax bills from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office that were to go out last week show increases for most of the City’s residential and commercial properties, running counter to officials’ hopes that taxes would not rise despite a recent reassessment.

The bills reflect the final installment tax bill for 2019; the County collects 2019 taxes in 2020.

In a release last week, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-13th, offered his office’s assistance in helping taxpayers who believe they have not been credited for exemptions or have received tax bills with misinformation.

Residents seeking help in those areas should call Commissioner Suffredin’s office at 847-864-1209 or email mjordan@suffredin.org.

“This is a serious issue for Evanston,” said Mr. Suffredin, a longtime resident of the City, in a phone interview and on his site, suffredin.org.

“For many, this year’s bill will be a tax increase from their 2018 bill,” said Mr. Suffredin. “We will help any homeowner get the exemptions they are entitled to.”

At this time, homeowners cannot appeal their assessment, he said. But they can review the bill for correctness and, if an error exists, pay only the amount owed, he said.

Final installment property tax payments are due by Aug. 3, but if a resident pays by Oct. 1, there will be no interest or penalties added to the tax amount, Mr. Suffredin’s office said in the release.

After October 1, taxes are subject to interest and penalties and could be subject to the tax sale of the property, the release said. For this reason, it is important to pay before Oct. 1, the release said.

The property tax changes grew out of the 2019 reassessment, in which Cook County properties are reassessed every three years as part of the triennial reassessment. The Evanston community noticed significant increase in their assessed values from the previous year,” City officials noted in an Oct. 3, 2019, memo. “Initial estimates show a 2019 total EAV for Evanston properties of $4.5 billion, increased from the 2018 EAV of $2.7 billion,” staff noted.

Although residents and commercial property owners expressed concern that the substantial increases could lead to a spike in their property values, City officials argued that because of reductions in the overall rate, property taxes for residential, at least, could go down in spite of higher assessments.

Part of officials’ prediction, though, was based on the assumption that levies of other taxing bodies would remain flat.

In Evanston, 11,924 out of 13,819 residential properties will see property tax increases, according to a breakdown compiled by Commissioner Suffredin’s office.

For commercial, the results are similar with 544 out of 790 properties showing increases on their 2019 bills.

Craig McClure, a northwest Evanston resident, said he checked his bill the first day it was posted on the Treasurer’s site.

Mr. McClure owns an 1,800-square-foot ranch style home with a partner. He said the second installment taxes brought his total property taxes for 2019 to $11,400, a more than 7% increase from last year.

The increase is roughly in line with what Mr. McClure and his partner have experienced seen since moving to the area from Pennsylvania in fall of 2004.

“Every year when they go up, they go up more than inflation,” said Mr. McClure, who is in the insurance financial services field. “These taxes are incredibly high. I don’t see how people do it.”

Evanston schools account for roughly 70 percent of property tax bill, with the City’s taking up another 20%, the Library about 3% and a variety of other taxing districts, the remainder. The City also generates revenue through, among other things, its home-rule sales tax, liquor tax and parking tickets.

“Our thing is we don’t mind paying our fair share,” said Mr. McClure. “We support the idea of public schools, but what we’re paying here for public schools is incredibly expensive.”

In Illinois, local school districts “are heavily dependent on property taxes,” he noted. “So you put that together with the fact that we have so many school districts and we have expensive school districts, it results in a high property tax bill.”

According to a list Commissioner Suffredin’s office prepared for local government leaders, the median increase for residential properties increased by 8.5%, showing a $504 median increase.

The home on the original Daniel Burnham Estate at 115 Dempster St. in the City's Lakefront Historic District saw the greatest jump.

Property taxes at that home, which sold for a record $4.9 million in 2016, rose from $42,496.84 to $114,825.37, an increase of $72,329.53, according to the list.

But properties further down the list fall more in the concern of local officials.

Sixth Ward Alderman Thomas Suffredin (whose father is the Cook County Commissioner) pointed to 1840 Hovland Court, far down the County list of property tax increases, as an example.

The property, currently up for sale, could benefit from “whatever reparations buyer assistance we approve,” he said, yet it still has a not insignificant $3,980 in taxes.

“The cost of buying a house is one thing,” he said. “But it’s the cost of staying here that is driving people out.”

City of Evanston staff made a similar observation in their updated HUD housing report in April, noting that “Evanston’s low and moderate income population will continue to be priced out of their community as home prices and rental rates rise. Long-time homeowners living on fixed incomes, primarily seniors, are increasingly at risk of displacement because they can no longer afford to pay rising property taxes, utilities and afford to maintain their homes.”



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