Cook Co. homeowners angry over property tax bills

October 5, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Some homeowners were shocked this week to discover a big jump in their taxes. They also can't understand why their home value is falling while their property taxes are rising.

Many of the angry taxpayers are senior citizens. Suburban township offices and the Cook County assessor's office are busy adjusting high bills for seniors who did not reapply for the senior exemption.

There are also plenty of homeowners frustrated that their bills reflect what their home was worth years ago.

When Linda Cole opened her property tax bill, she was shocked that it had gone up by over $1,200, especially since her two bedroom townhouse in Bridgeview is worth $50,000 less than she and her husband paid for it.

"A tax bill like this is going to raise our monthly mortgage by $150, which we don't have," she said.

Cole is not alone. Laura Hollwell came to the Cook County Assessor's Office to protest her high bill for a home she owns in Oak Lawn.

"I've owned a property for five years, it's decreased in value by over $100,000 and the taxes went up $3,000," said Hollwell.

While the reasons for high bills vary, many homeowners are paying more because government is costing more and local taxing bodies are increasing their tax rates.

"You're talking about your schools, your fire departments, your police departments, your libraries, your park districts. They all cost more to operate," said Kelley Quinn, assessor's office spokesperson.

But the Cook County Assessor's Office says higher tax rates is not the main reason why their offices are getting so many people angry about their tax bills.

"The main thing our office is seeing is a reflection in the new state law that makes senior reapply for exemptions," said Quinn.

If you are 65 or older and have not re-applied for the senior exemption that used to be automatic, there is a good chance your tax bills are much higher. The assessor's office says adjustments are made on the spot, which was a big relief for Joanna Snobel.

"The amount was over $2,000. I got it reduced to 800 and something. So I'm happy," said Snobel.

While senior tax bills are being lowered. because of timing, they still must pay the amount on their bill and wait for a rebate in the mail.

For those who are complaining about their plummeting home values and rising tax bills, you can appeal. In addition, the assessor's office suggests homeowners contact their local lawmakers about the increased tax rates.

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