Property values fall, yet taxes go up

September 23, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Even though most property values have dropped over the past three years, most property tax bills will be going up again.

Falling property values and rising property taxes have turned the American dream for many into a nightmare in virtually every county in the state.

Nowhere in Cook County have home prices fallen more dramatically than in the northern and northwestern suburbs -- anywhere from 10 to 14 percent since houses there were last assessed.

Skokie homeowner Jill Dillard says any property tax increase will be difficult to accept.

"When your house isn't worth as much as it was but yet you have to pay more in taxes, it just doesn't seem right," said Dillard.

But Illinois law allows the taxing districts within counties to raise the overall amount of money they collect from property owners based on increases in the consumer price index.

"This past year, the CPI increase for districts was 2.7 percent," said tax expert Bill Vaselopulos, Cook County Clerk's Office.

Vaselopulos says Cook County will have to squeeze nearly 3 percent more money from parcels that now have a significantly lower estimated assessed value.

"Typically when EAV's go down, the tax rate will go up to offset that decline in EAV...Just because an EAV goes down, doesn't mean districts are entitled to less money, doesn't mean taxpayers are necessarily going to be paying less," said Vaselopulos.

Lincolnwood homeowner Peter Reinemann called the system a scam but says he understands what's happening.

"I'm a taxpayer. I'm a contributor to the government and the schools, and all that other stuff. Those costs don't change for the government based on the housing market," said Reinemann.

In the meantime, Dillard sees another reason her taxes and property value are going in different directions.

"I've really been walking the neighborhood and there's two foreclosures that are just empty and they're just looking so bad," she said.

The foreclosed properties are not only off the tax rolls, they drive down the appraised values of neighboring, occupied houses.

There's also another reason for higher tax bills in the coming. State lawmakers have not renewed the so-called homeowners exemption that limited increases to seven per cent a year. It is being phased out.

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