Cook County property tax bills cause outrage

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Cook County taxpayers are outraged after property tax bills showed up in the mail. The bills are skyrocketing this year. (WLS)

Cook County taxpayers are outraged after property tax bills showed up in the mail. The bills are skyrocketing this year.

The city of Chicago and its public school district's fiscal problems literally hit home over the weekend, when property owners saw their second installment tax bills.

Outside the assessor's office, city homeowners told one property tax horror story after another.

"Our taxes increased fivefold," said William Phillips of Rogers Park. "I was expecting it to go up maybe twice as much but not four to five times as much."

"My tax bill increased almost $1,200 dollars," said Cornes King of Chatham.

"More than tripled. The city's piece more than tripled," said Logan Square resident Janelle Squire.

The bills that arrived over the weekend reflect rising Cook County real estate values and, in Chicago, the city's $588 million levy increase. Most of it is to restore police and firefighter pensions that Mayor Rahm Emanuel says his predecessors underfunded.

"A number of people across the spectrum, politically, denied, deferred and delayed the day of judgement," said Mayor Emanuel.

"I don't think that I'm getting the services for what I'm paying for," said King.

Sensing taxpayer unrest, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle promised not to consider a property tax increase to resolve her government's deficit.

"As an executive in the county, I know I don't have the votes for a property tax increase to meet our obligations," said Preckwinkle.

But the Chicago Public Schools Board is expected to approve a $250 million property tax hike to pay for teacher pensions. The new levy was enabled last week by the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Bruce Rauner. The additional charges, hundreds of dollars more for an average city house, will appear on tax bills a year from now.

"We might have to consider selling. I don't know if we'll be able to afford it," said Phillips of his Rogers Park home.

Homeowners could also have less money to pay their property taxes if the Illinois income tax is raised eventually to address the fiscal problems in Springfield.
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