Cook County property taxes higher in south suburbs than north; some families worry about losing home

ByAnn Pistone and Jason Knowles WLS logo
Friday, May 17, 2024
Why are Cook County property taxes so much higher in south suburbs?
Cook County property taxes are higher in the south suburbs than in the north suburbs, largely due to how they're used to fund schools.

COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- Could thousands of Cook County homeowners eventually be taxed out of their homes?

Some critics say the tax system in Illinois is broken because it relies too much on property taxes for school funding, when compared to other states. Experts predict a property tax apocalypse in Cook County's south suburbs because the same assessment increase there can hit homeowners harder.

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Anne Dugravot and her husband bought their dream home in unincorporated south suburban Homewood in 2021, and now they worry they may lose it.

Their property tax assessment went up by nearly $300,000. Like many other residents in the south suburbs, she pays a high tax rate. There, homeowners' rates are between about 14% and 43%. But in the north suburbs, the rates are 12% or less.

RELATED: South suburban homeowners say property tax assessments raised up to 650%: 'I will probably move'

"The thought of losing it to taxes is heartbreaking," Dugravot said.

Her property tax bill will now jump from $6,999 a year to at least $18,000. And since she pays her taxes in escrow, it will change her monthly mortgage.

"It's going to double my mortgage," she said.

READ MORE: Palatine family owed $300K refund after Kaegi admits to Cook County property tax assessment error

If Dugravot's house was located in neighboring Park Forest, where combined local taxes create a rate as high as 43%, her bill would be $56,000. If she lived in the north suburb of Northfield, where people pay a local tax rate as low as 7%, she would pay only $9,000.

"We are going to see ghost towns created all across the southern and southwestern suburbs," said attorney Mario Reed, who recently held a seminar with concerned homeowners.

Reed said he's received hundreds of calls from people in the south and southwest suburbs with similar complaints.

"You have thousands of homeowners who won't be able to afford their bills, they will lose their homes and there won't be anyone behind them because the taxes are unsustainable," he said.

MORE COVERAGE South suburban property assessments jump up 100-200 percent, bringing huge tax increases

So why are property tax rates so much higher in south and southwest suburbs? There, rates are driven mostly by money needed to fund schools. Experts say that because the south suburbs have fewer businesses, fewer occupied homes and fewer high-priced homes compared to northern suburbs, there is more of a tax burden on south suburban homeowners.

What does the state contribute to schools? Illinois only paid 24% of the public education budget in 2022, much less when compared most states. Governor JB Pritzker's office said that number has increased since he's taken office, that he's added $1.8 billion to school funding, and that he has helped municipalities with $200 million in new grants.

"It's a broken system. Broken," said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

RLEATED: Cook County property taxes rise more than $909M for 2022 tax year: Treasurer Maria Pappas' office

Pappas agrees with Reed, and says closing businesses are contributing to the problem.

"As commercial buildings go down, as they crash, and fewer and fewer commercial buildings exist, the residents all over the county are picking up all those taxes," she said.

And then there's the problem homeowner exodus.

"If everybody keeps leaving, those who are left take on the entire financial burden," said Pappas.

Dugravot may be seeing some tax relief. After the I-Team inquired about her assessment increase, the Cook County Assessor's office said they assessed the land incorrectly and are working to fix it. But she's still concerned about higher tax rates in her area and school funding driving up those costs.

"It's a lot of money and it's not justified. It's just ridiculous," she said.

Experts say if your assessment went up and you want to prepare for a property tax increase now, you can pay more money into your escrow for your property taxes.

If you have questions or concerns about how schools are funded, you can contact your state representative.