Cook County’s escalating property tax bills are not just caused by declining homeowner exemptions. Property taxes continue to soar because legislative leaders refuse to address specific Cook County property tax and assessment problems.

In 1998, Cook County Assessor James Houlihan assembled a tax policy forum for conducting a public examination of the Cook County property tax system. Recognized experts – including the Civic Federation and Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois – were chosen because of their longstanding dedication to property tax reform. I joined this coalition of some 285 individuals at 21 meetings to review the tax burdens of various property classes.

One of the primary areas of weakness identified in the Cook County property tax system was the classification system. Property classification makes the system complex and places the county at a competitive disadvantage. Commercial properties are assessed at higher levels than residential properties in Cook County, and their property taxes are higher than businesses in the collar counties.

Cook County assesses homes at 10 percent of market value and businesses at 25 percent. It is this excessive 2.5-percent spread that allows the Illinois Department of Revenue to impose today’s 2.98 state multiplier – up more than 60 percent over the last 25 years when in 1984 it was 1.84. Even with the accelerated growth of market values peaking in 2006-2007, the state-imposed multiplier continued to increase throughout the real estate “boom” years.

But over the last 25 years, with the growth of the state multiplier exceeding 60 percent, the city of Chicago’s aggregate tax rate has dropped 110 percent – from .1 to .05 – yet taxpayers pay more today in property taxes than they did 25 years ago.

The only way to control escalating property taxes is to place growth caps on all triennial property tax reassessments, and rid Cook County of its classification system, so that assessments are at the same level with all the other 101 counties.

Implementing uniform assessment-level practices would reduce and potentially eliminate a state-imposed tax multiplier on all Cook County tax bills, which raises everyone’s initial assessment tax by 190 percent.

Andrea Raila
Democratic candidate for county assessor

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