Homeowners can appeal property assessments

CHICAGO The big increases are being blamed on property assessments that were done at the top of the real estate bubble. Just about everyone agrees, something needs to be done about rising property taxes. Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley addressed the problem.

While it's too late to fix your current property tax bill, Mayor Daley says now is the time to fix next year's bill. Mayor Daley is asking homeowners to appeal if they believe their home is assessed too high.

Daley was joined Wednesday by suburban mayors and commissioners from the Cook County Board of Review. The board said homeowners will win the appeal if they can prove their home has been affected by the downturn in the housing market.

Annie Brookins is looking for answers. The Thornton Township homeowner is armed with her current Cook County property tax bill and wants to know why it is so high.

"Earlier this year it was $1,700 and now it's $2,700 and we're wondering why it's gone up to so high," said Brookins.

Brookins has paid it but went to the County Building to appeal her assessment so she's not stuck with a high bill next year. Mayor Daley and several suburban mayors are urging outraged homeowners to do the same thing.

"Every homeowner knows that in this bad economy it's likely the assessed value of their homes has dropped significantly since they were last adjusted in 2006," said Mayor Daley.

And the Cook County Board of Review is ready to make adjustments as long as homeowners bring the board evidence that their property has gone down in value or their home is in a neighborhood with foreclosed homes and abandoned buildings.

"Where the evidence supports it, we will roll you back to prior year assessment," said Larry Rogers, Cook County Board of Review.

Mayor Daley blames Cook County Assessor James Houlihan for not reassessing properties in economic downturns. Right now, properties are reassessed every three years.

"There has to be, as a public official, flexibility in this issue. It's not -- people cannot afford their taxes," said the mayor.

But Cook County Assessor Houlihan says it's not that simple. Houlihan says he can't do it without getting an extra $20 million from the county board, or the other option is approval from Springfield, which Houlihan says he has tried but has been unsuccessful

"We have been unsuccessful because of the trial bar, the property tax attorneys," said Houlihan.

Houlihan also blames Springfield for the rise in current bills. Houlihan says faulty assessments are not to blame for current skyrocketing tax bills. The Cook County assessor says the 7 percent homeowner exemption that lawmakers are phasing out is to blame for the higher bills.

Both the mayor and Houlihan agree that the state must stop over-relying on property taxes to fund education.

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