RF assessments leap 29 percent, still much less than in 2002

? Property tax hikes likely to be mitigated by new tax exemption. Appeals due by June 20.

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Nearly 4,200 parcels of River Forest property were reassessed this month, making property-owners in the township the first to receive notices in the 2005 reassessment cycle. Each year, the Cook County Assessor's Office reassesses one-third of the 1.7 million parcels of property in Cook County, and 2005 is the year for the south and western suburbs.

According to Township Assessor Mary "Rogue" Weiland, this year's median increase was 29.12 percent. The increase is not as high as it was during the last reassessment ?#34; in 2002 the median increase was 49 percent?#34;but after appeals are processed and the numbers readjust, that value should change. In 2002, the final median increase was 42 percent.

Predictably, said Weiland, some property owners have called to complain about raises in their property taxes due to increased property value.

"People don't really understand the system, and I don't blame them," she said. "It's very complex."

Weiland said it's important that people check the fee schedule very carefully because some might pay more than their tax increase would require. Their local assessor can help them with an appeal, she said.

According to the Cook County Assessor's web site, the Assessor's Office determines the property value of a single family home by finding the mathematical relationship between the value of the house and its neighboring houses using a computer-assisted technique called multiple regression.

Property owners may compare their assessments with those of similar homes, which will be available in public libraries and published in local newspapers. If property owners in River Forest wish to appeal their assessments, they must do so by June 20.

In 2004, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law legislation that would expand tax exemptions for homeowners in Illinois. The 7 percent Expanded Homeowner Exemption increases the amount taken off the taxable value of a home, a value that ranges from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $20,000, depending on a home's prior value and its assessment increase.

The expanded exemption is available to all residential properties that receive the Homeowner Exemption and goes into effect following a home's reassessment. River Forest homeowners will see this relief on their 2006-second installment tax bills, said Weiland.

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