One in 10 OP homeowners appeal property reassessment

Results of appeals due by late September

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By KATHARINE GRAYSON

The number of Oak Park single-family homeowners who have appealed the county's recent reassessment of their property values has increased roughly 70 percent over the 2002 reassessment period, according to Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar.

After the Aug. 25 deadline for filing appeals recently passed, ElSaffar said a total of 1,139 residents?#34;or one in 10 Oak Park homeowners?#34;had sought reprieve. The figures do not include how many residential property owners may have filed appeals with other county offices, though ElSaffar said Maybrook has also reportedly been "run ragged" by Oak Parkers.

How successful homeowners will be in their bid for relief from the average assessment increase of 38 percent won't be known until late September, ElSaffar said. During the last assessment period, the increase in the total Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) from residential properties dropped from 46.2 to 44.96 percent. Following county review board judgments, the figure dropped to 43.3 percent.

ElSaffar attributed the spike in appeals in part to the aftermath of the 2002 reassessment, when property values increased even higher than this year. He also said more condominium owners than in the past filed appeals.

"Nothing focuses the mind like an actual bill," he said. "A lot of people might not quite have realized the true impact of a reassessment until the bills came in fall of 2003. A lot of people learned their lesson."

Due to a significant number of successful appeals filed by businesses in 2002, much of the tax burden shifted on to homeowners.

ElSaffar said whether that trend will continue also won't be known until all of this year's appeals are settled. The township rarely handles appeals filed by businesses and multi-family building owners. However, he said those property owners usually seek reductions "as a matter of business."

Multi-family building owners were hit especially hard in this year's reassessment, seeing an average increase in value of over 50 percent.

ElSaffar said the number of homeowners filing appeals seemed to be consistent throughout Oak Park, and not notably higher in any particular geographical area.

Barrie appeals still pending

The township is, however, still working on appeals filed in the neighborhood surrounding Barrie Park. The area around the park, which has in recent years been the site of a substantial environmental cleanup project, saw some of the highest increases in this reassessment. In 2002, many of the homes bordering the park?#34;which have been designated as part of the cleanup as sitting in "area one"?#34;were assessed as though they were just vacant land.

"I'm going to share my thoughts with the county on [Barrie Park assessments]," he said. "Especially in area one, there's some issues. The biggest and most difficult question is what impact does a No Further Remediation (NFR) letter have on market value. It's very unusual and we don't have much data on it."

Residents in the area who have had contaminants removed from their properties will receive a NFR letter.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that might have a negative impact. If you had to choose a house that did have such a letter, or did not, you might be inclined to go with the house that did not," he said.

Because tax payments are always made a year behind, residents won't see the effects of the new assessment until the fall of 2006. Also, though assessments have increased more than 30 percent, residents won't pay 30 percent more in taxes. Following a reassessment year, tax rates drop.

Reassessments determine what share of total tax burden a homeowner is responsible for.

Until all appeals are resolved, the assessor cannot predict what residents' property tax bills will look like.

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