On March 1, Oak Park property owners began receiving reassessment notices from the Cook County Assessor’s Office reflecting the assessor’s estimate of Oak Park property values as of Jan. 1, 2017. The median Oak Park assessed value for residential properties increased by about 24%.

The increases associated with the 2017 triennial reassessment reflect the recovery of home prices over the last three years. During the Great Recession, home prices fell. At the 2011 reassessment, for example, the value of Oak Park residential properties fell by 11%. When Oak Park was last reassessed in 2014, home prices had stabilized, but condominium prices were still falling.

Since 2014, both homes and condominiums have seen increasing prices. These higher prices are reflected in the 2017 reassessment.

If my assessed value increased by 24%, will my taxes increase by 24%? 

No! Property taxes are primarily driven by the tax levies of local government, and Oak Park tax levies will not be increasing by 24%.

Tax levies do rise each year, but not by 24%. This is because state law generally prohibits tax increases that are greater than the rate of inflation. Thus if inflation is 2% per year, governments can usually raise their levies by only 2%.

But the law limiting levy increases to the rate of inflation can be overridden by a referendum. This year, Oak Park’s elementary school district is seeking approval for an operations referendum and a facilities referendum. In next week’s paper, I will be writing an article giving details about each referendum, and how they will impact tax bills. For now, I will simply state that if the operations referendum is approved, I estimate that this year’s local taxes will be about 9% higher than last year. If the operations referendum fails, I estimate that this year’s taxes will rise by about 2%.

When will the reassessment and the referendums impact my property tax bill? 

If District 97’s operations referendum is successful, the impact will appear on property tax bills paid this summer. In the summer of 2018, the reassessment will impact tax bills. And the effect of the facilities referendum will not appear on tax bills until the summer of 2019.

Will my property tax bill change as a result of the reassessment? 

To answer this question, it is necessary to understand the two basic components of the property tax system: the total amount of money local governments are levying from Oak Park properties (total tax burden); and each property’s share of the tax burden. 

Government officials and voters, through tax referendums, determine the weight of the tax burden on Oak Park properties. Reassessments, by contrast, neither increase nor decrease our total tax burden. Reassessments can nonetheless impact tax bills by changing a property’s share of the tax burden. 

What is my share of the tax burden and how does it change? 

Every property pays a small share of Oak Park’s total tax burden. For example, if a property’s assessed value equals 1% of Oak Park’s total assessed value, it will pay 1% of Oak Park’s taxes.

Because real estate values change over time, reassessments adjust property values to reflect the current market. This can change a property’s share of the tax burden, leading to a corresponding change in its tax bill.

The key to determining whether there has been a change in your property’s share of the tax burden lies in comparing the percent increase in your property’s assessment to the overall increase in Oak Park’s assessed value. It is reasonable to estimate that Oak Park’s overall increase, after all assessment appeals are complete, will be about 20%.

Those with assessment increases above the overall Oak Park increase will pay a greater share of Oak Park’s tax burden. Properties with assessment changes below the community increase, however, will pay a smaller share of the tax burden.  

Can I appeal my new assessed value? 

Yes. The Cook County Assessor’s Office will be accepting appeals from Oak Park property owners through April 3. Homeowners needing help filing appeals can call the Oak Park Township Assessor’s Office at 708-383-8005 for an appeal appointment, and can also find appeal information online at www.cookcountyassessor.com.

What are the most common grounds for an assessment appeal? 

A successful appeal will reduce an individual property owner’s share of the local tax burden, resulting in a lower tax bill. There are three main types of appeals:

1. Lack of uniformity. Similar properties should be assessed similarly. To substantiate an appeal based on lack of uniformity, it is necessary to find properties comparable to yours that have lower assessed valuations. The Township Assessor’s Office can help you find comparable properties quickly and easily.

2. Errors in property characteristics. Every house has a set of characteristics which help determine its assessed value. Characteristics errors can be appealed. The type of characteristics error most likely to result in an assessment reduction is one that overstates the square footage of your house.

3. Recent purchase or appraisal. If the value set by the Cook County Assessor is higher than a recent purchase price or a recent appraisal for your property, you may have grounds for a successful appeal. 

A successful appeal will typically remain in effect until the next reassessment, which is scheduled to take place in 2020.

How does the Cook County Assessor determine the value of my house? 

The assessor looks at all sales in Oak Park over the last three years, and estimates the value of your house based on the sales of properties that are similar to yours. 

To define a “similar” property, the assessor has divided Oak Park into 11 assessment neighborhoods, and has placed each house into a property class with other houses of similar age, size and style. Under the system used by the assessor, identical houses in the same assessment neighborhood should have identical assessed values. 

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