High prop­erty tax bills? Ap­peal as­sess­ments

Process may seem un­pleas­ant, but home­own­ers can save

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - Ted Slowik

For some, ap­peal­ing prop­erty taxes can seem about as un­pleas­ant as clean­ing a house, help­ing some­onemove or some other oner­ous chore.

Ap­peal­ing taxes may seem dread­ful, but it could save home­own­ers a lot of money. It’s some­thing that should be done not once but with reg­u­lar­ity, like hav­ing the oil changed in a vehi-cle.“My­tax­eswent­down$1,000 this year,” Marva Camp­bell

Pruitt, vil­lage clerk of SaukVil­lage, told me Thurs­day night at a prop­erty tax ap­peal fo­rum at the Sauk Vil­lageMu­nic­i­pal Cen­ter. Camp­bell-Pruitt at­trib­uted the sav­ings to the fact she ap­pealed her taxes last year. Her an­nual tax bill is still more than $10,000, she said, and she plans to ap­peal again.

About a dozen peo­ple at­tended

the fo­rum. It­was a small turnout, con­sid­er­ing the im­por­tance of the sub­ject mat­ter. Home­own­ers who ap­peal their prop­erty taxes could po­ten­tially save hun­dreds or thou­sands of dol­lars a year.

“I re­ally wish this room was full,” Camp­bell-Pruitt said. “This is not just a Sauk Vil­lage event. This is for all of Bloom Town­ship.” This is the sec­ond year in a row that rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­volved in the ap­peals process have met with Bloom Town­ship res­i­dents to try to help them save money on their prop­erty taxes. “I’m sure you’re not the only ones in the south sub­urbs who are hav­ing is­sues with their prop­erty taxes be­ing too high,” said Dana Pointer, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity out­reach for Cook County Board of Re­view Com­mis­sioner Larry R. Rogers Jr., one of three elected mem­bers of the board. Poin­t­er­walked through the ap­peals process, which is more sim­ple and pain­less than some may re­al­ize. It starts when home­own­ers are mailed their tax bills twice a year. The first in­stall­ment in Cook County is al­ways due the first busi­ness day in­March. The sec­ond in­stall­ment is typ­i­cally due in late sum­mer. This year, the due date­was Aug. 1. “You should al­ways check your tax bills,” Pointer said. They con­tain in­for­ma­tion about where your prop­erty tax dol­lars go: What amounts are spent to fund schools, po­lice and fire pro­tec­tion, li­braries, parks and other ser­vices. Tax bills also tell home­own­ers the as­sessed value of their prop­erty. If the pro­posed value is greater than a home­owner thinks it should be, it’s prob­a­bly­worth con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal. “If the as­ses­sor is as­sess­ing you at $150,000 and you only paid $100,000, that’s a dis­crep­ancy. That’s some­thingwe could look at,” Pointer said. Ex­emp­tions of­fer other op­por­tu­ni­ties for sav­ings. Most peo­ple qual­ify for the home­owner’s ex­emp­tion be­cause their home is their pri­mary res­i­dence, as op­posed to an in­come-gen­er­at­ing rental prop­erty. Se­nior cit­i­zens qual­ify for an­other ex­emp­tion. Vet­er­ans,

peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and peo­ple whose home­swere dam­aged by fire are among oth­ers who might qual­ify for ad­di­tional ex­emp­tions.

Home­own­ers should al­ways check their tax bills to make sure they are re­ceiv­ing ex­emp­tions to which they are en­ti­tled, Pointer said. She said she re­cently helped a home­owner in his 80s with an ap­peal. For many years, he had not taken the home­owner and se­nior cit­i­zen ex­emp­tions, she said. He missed out on sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings.

Many home­own­ers may not think to check their tax bills be­cause they pay money into an es­crowac­count as part of their monthly mort­gage pay­ments. Un­less they’re no­ti­fied about an in­crease in their monthly pay­ment amount, they may pay lit­tle at­ten­tion to their as­sess­ment.

“Our mort­gage pay­ments jumped up $500 a month,” res­i­den­tDwayne Mar­shall told me at the fo­rum. “We’ve got to do some­thing be­fore we end up hav­ing to live in a card­board box.”

Awoman who asked that her name not be pub­lished showedme her tax bill. The mar­ket value of her prop­er­ty­was set at $83,260 for 2017, the bill showed. The as­sess­ment level is 10 per­cent of the mar­ket value, or $8,326. That­was a big jump from her 2016 as­sess­ment level of $6,230.

“Iwas re­ally shocked when I saw it,” she said. “My tax­eswent up over $100 a month.”

An ap­peal may lower a home’s as­sessed value, Pointer said, but that’s only one of sev­eral fac­tors that af­fect prop­erty taxes. The Board of Re­view and as­ses­sor can­not do any­thing about tax rates charged by school dis­tricts and other tax­ing bod­ies, she said.

“The tax rate in the city of Chicago is 7.26 per­cent,” she said. “When you come out to the south sub­urbs it’s much higher. In Ford Heights, it’s 33.9 per­cent. There aren’t as­many com­mer­cial or in­dus­trial prop­er­ties to take up that bur­den.”

The 2017 av­er­age com­pos­ite rate of 33.9 per­cent in FordHeights de­clined 11.1 per­cent fromthe 2016 rate of 38.2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual re­port by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

In Tin­ley Park, the rate dropped nearly 10 per­cent in 2017 to 12.2 per­cent from13.6 per­cent in 2016. In Home­wood, the rate fell 7.6 per­cent to 16.1 per­cent. Blue Is­land’s rate plunged 9 per­cent to 14.9 per­cent.

Some school dis­tricts in low­er­in­come ar­eas are low­er­ing their lo­cal tax rates be­cause they’re get­ting ad­di­tional state fund­ing, thanks to re­cent leg­is­la­tion in­tended to ad­dress in­equity in school fund­ing.

Many south sub­ur­ban home­own­ers may see a re­duc­tion in their as­sess­ments this year. That’s be­cause the Cook County as­ses­sor’s of­fice is us­ing a new method to de­ter­mine prop­erty val­ues.

“We rolled out this new sys­tem,” Pointer said. “It’s been­well-re­ceived. It’s more trans­par­ent.”

The changeswere made af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Chicago Tri­bune and oth­ers found the Cook County as­ses­sor’s of­fice tended to over­es­ti­mate the value of sin­gle­fam­ily homes in poor or­work­ing­class neigh­bor­hoods while un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the value of homes in wealth­ier ar­eas, the Tri­bune re­ported.

The sys­tem is now­bet­ter at de­ter­min­ing ac­cu­rate home val­ues in part be­cause it makes bet­ter com­par­isons be­tween homes with sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics within neigh­bor­hoods, the Tri­bune re­ported, cit­ing tax pol­icy ex­perts.

Res­i­den­tial prop­erty taxes re­main op­pres­sive for many south sub­ur­ban res­i­dents. Ad­di­tional state fund­ing for schools and the new as­sess­ment method are help­ing ad­dress the prob­lem.

Still, it’s a good idea for in­di­vid­ual home­own­ers to check their tax bills and as­sessed val­u­a­tions. Pro­posed mar­ket val­ues should be con­sis­tent with homes of sim­i­lar size and char­ac­ter­is­tics within a com­mu­nity. Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about ex­emp­tions and other po­ten­tial sav­ings is read­ily avail­able on­line and at town­ship as­ses­sor of­fices.

Per­son­nel from­var­i­ous of­fices are avail­able to ex­plain the ap­peals process to peo­ple and help them gather and file nec­es­sary pa­per­work. Fo­rums like the one Thurs­day in Sauk Vil­lage are com­monly held when the ap­peals process is open for a par­tic­u­lar town­ship.

“I’m hop­ingwe all will get a nice tax break,” Camp­bell-Pruitt said.

TED SLOWIK/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

Dana Pointer, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity out­reach for Cook County Board of Re­view Com­mis­sioner Larry R. Rogers Jr., ex­plains the prop­erty tax ap­peals process dur­ing a fo­rum Thurs­day at the Sauk Vil­lage Mu­nic­i­pal Cen­ter.

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