While many communities in Cook County saw their effective residential property tax rates drop in 2015, three municipalities of the dozen studied by the nonprofit Civic Federation experienced increases – and Oak Park was one of them.

Oak Park also was identified in the study as having the fourth highest residential effective property tax rate – at 2.96 percent – of those communities in 2015, according to the report released in early January. That’s behind Elgin at 3.11 percent, Chicago Heights at 5.42 percent and Harvey at 6.9 percent.

But what is an effective residential property tax rate?

The Civic Federation, a non-partisan research organization, describes it as “an estimate of the percentage of a property’s full market value owed in property taxes during a given year.”

It uses the median level of assessment on properties within a geographical area to estimate the property taxes due on any given property.

Civic Federation executive director Laurence Msall said his organization uses the metric to create an apples-to-apples comparison of the tax burden between communities.

“For example, if you were a condo owner in Oak Park and had a $6,000 tax liability and you thought your condo was worth $300,000, you would have an effective tax rate of 2 percent,” Msall said in a telephone interview. Msall is an Oak Park resident.

The report also shows that the effective residential property tax rate in Oak Park increased 1.6 percent between 2014 and 2015 and 37.7 percent from 2006.

That represents the third slowest rate increase for that nine-year period of the dozen communities studied, just behind Chicago at 27.9 percent and Evanston at 27.8 percent.

The two fastest growing effective residential property tax rates of the communities studied from 2006 to 2015 were Chicago Heights at 112.1 percent and Harvey at 117.6 percent, according to the report.

“So Oak Park, of all the communities that we singled out in Cook County, is not at the lowest but it’s also not at the highest,” Msall said. “It’s certainly not as bad as Chicago Heights, which is in crisis.”

The effective commercial property tax rate in Oak Park also experienced a dramatic increase over the nine-year period studied, more than doubling from 4.49 percent in 2006 to 9.26 percent in 2015.

It was the third highest of the dozen communities studied, trailing behind Chicago Heights at 13.96 percent in 2015 and Harvey at 17.84 percent. Evanston, a community often used as a point of comparison for Oak Park, increased its commercial rate 87.7 percent over the nine-year period, increasing from 3.34 percent in 2006 to 6.27 percent in 2015.

While the study can be a good metric for determining how much your tax bill might be in various communities, Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar said another thing to consider when looking at the number is the value of the homes in the municipalities studied.

“A house worth $100,000 in Oak Park is going to be different from a house worth $100,000 in Chicago Heights and Barrington,” he said. “You probably don’t get a whole lot of house for $100,000 in Oak Park.”

He noted that the split in the tax burden between commercial and residential also plays a role from community to community. Communities with large shopping malls, for instance, will have a lower residential property tax burden because the commercial is covering more of the bill.

ElSaffar said residential property in Oak Park – single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and 2- to 6-flats – make up 80.7 percent of the tax base.

“Multi-family buildings of seven units or more comprise 5.9 percent of the tax base, with 12.7 percent for commercial property and 0.4% for industrial property,” ElSaffar said in an email.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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