The Crusader Newspaper Group

New state law, reassessments and controversial TIF funds result in higher taxes for most property owners

As property tax bills land in Cook County mailboxes over the coming days, businesses and homeowners will likely find higher bills with some gentrifying Latino neighborhoods in Chicago seeing eye-popping increases of nearly 46%, according to a Treasurer’s Office analysis of 1.8 million tax bills.

The analysis, which examined bills for the 2021 tax year, shows that property taxes across Cook County rose by $614 million — a 3.8% increase — for a total of $16.7 billion going to pay for schools, public safety, medical care, parks, libraries and other government services.

The increased tax burden is not shared equally. Homeowners will pay 53.6% of the rise, while businesses will pay 46.4%. Some Chicago communities — affluent areas along the north lakefront and pockets of working-class Latino neighborhoods — will see their taxes jump dramatically.

property taxes

The increase in taxes in some gentrifying Latino neighborhoods likely will raise concerns that residents could be priced out of their homes. In the Lower West Side, a predominantly Latino community, the median homeowner’s tax bill increased by $2,275 to $7,239, a 46% jump over 2020’s property taxes. In Avondale, another predominantly Latino community, the median tax bill shot up 27%.

“There are still inequities in our property tax system and we need to straighten it out,” said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

Meanwhile, many struggling, predominantly Black neighborhoods saw significant reductions in their median taxes, such as West Garfield Park where homeowner taxes dropped nearly 45%.

Overall, the median tax bill for homeowners in Chicago went up nearly 8%. The Treasurer’s analysis shows four factors drove those increases:

  • A new Illinois property tax law allows many governments to “recapture,” or recover, the total of any taxes refunded to property owners who appealed their taxes the previous year. This new recapture law added $131 million to tax bills across Cook County. Chicago Public Schools is getting $32.3 million, the largest recapture payment in Cook County.
  • Property assessments, used to determine how much someone pays, rose across the city this year — fueling a $141 million increase into the city’s special economic development funds, known as Tax Increment Finance districts. None of that $141 million may be used to cover government services, so it is effectively an additional property tax.
  • City Hall increased the amount of money it needed for operations by $94 million, and Chicago Public Schools increased its tax levy by $114 million.
  • The Assessor’s Office last year reduced the values of homes anywhere from 8% to 12% because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. But homes’ estimated market values have risen, and the Board of Review, the tax assessment appeal agency, dramatically lowering commercial assessments set by the Assessor, which caused more of the overall tax burden to fall on homeowners.

Pappas, who annually studies the impact of government property taxes, said the newly enacted recapture law “now will be an annual tax increase.”

Elsewhere, taxes in the North and Northwest suburbs, increased by $94 million, with most homeowners and commercial property owners getting higher bills. Taxes grew to a smaller extent in the South and Southwest suburbs, where the increase was $35 million.

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