Transfer tax increase meant to keep CTA running

February 7, 2008 3:40:00 PM PST
No one liked it, but Chicago aldermen approved a big increase Wednesday in the city's real estate transfer tax. This was part of the deal to keep the Chicago Transit Authority running.

Compromise means not everyone is happy. The agreement to bail out mass transit in Illinois came with much compromise. The City of Chicago's part was an increase in transfer tax. At the same time the city considers ways to help homeowners.

The transfer tax passed Wednesday's City Council, but not without a reprimand from Mayor Daley for those who opposed the tax.

"If you have the courage, and are willing to fight this, stay with your principles," said Mayor Daley.

The tax is a part of the plan to keep Chicago Transit Authority operating. It would raise the cost of real estate purchases from $7.50 per 1,000 to $10.50.

"And if you act like jellyfish, which you are doing, 'Well, we've gotta do it,' what the hell do you do think they are going to do? They are going ride over you like a steamroller," said Ald. Bernard Stone, 50th Ward.

The Metropolitan Planning Council supported the tax and contends the cost to maintain transportation helps city residents in the long run.

"The notion of connecting a real estate transfer tax to transit is a very logical one to the extent that you're in proximity to good transit service actually adds value to your property," said Peter Skosey, Metropolitan Planning Council.

Thursday, a calmer Mayor Daley extended appreciation for those who approved the transfer tax increase as rolled out a plan to reform property tax. Daley will ask for current assessments to be revisited and for the state legislature to change the way property is assessed and taxed.

Mayor Daley says, in the 4600-block of South Calumet, one homeowner saw his property tax go from $900 to $2,000.

"This has to be corrected. Everybody wants to do this. We have to really come together and do it. We have to find ways to do this. It is worth our while for everyone here," Daley said.

Mayor Daley points to fraudulent assessments of homes that put some homeowners into foreclosure and artificially inflated the assessment of nearby homes.

The mayor's reform plan will include creating a council to come up with solutions and looking for long-term help from the state legislature. The city is also working with banks to try and identify homeowners before they go into foreclosure.