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Special from the West Suburban Journal
A number of residents in Proviso Township were shocked to learn that the values of their homes had nearly doubled when they received property reassessments in the past month. This would mean they would be paying a significantly higher amount in property taxes.

The trend of rising taxes is primarily due to rising market values, according to analysts.

“It is truly a seller’s market, right now,” said Larry Powell, RE/MAX real estate agent.

Powell said there are so many buyers in the market with many financing alternatives, creating a huge demand which increases values on homes and, thus, increases property taxes. Many of these buyers took advantage of the refinancing period and moved after one or two years, selling the home at a higher price and further driving up property taxes.

“There’s just been a hot market,” said Maura Kownacki, spokesperson for Cook County Assessor Houlihan. “And by law, the assessor is required to place a value on the property.”

Another factor driving up property taxes is education funding. About half of property taxes fund education.

“Property taxes are just being asked to fund too much,” Kownacki said. “Too much property taxes are funding schools.”

Brian Bernardoni, spokesperson for the Chicago Realtor’s Association, said that while Chicagoland has been a good realty market, thereby driving up taxes, the largest taxing bodies are the school districts and local school board members should be held accountable.

“[People] need to question their elected officials on their taxes,” Bernardoni said. “This is an issue of spending and accountability.”

State Senator Kimberly Lightford, who chairs the education committee, said she tried to relieve the burden on property taxpayers with House Bill 755.

“The whole issue with this is education reform,” Lightford said.

The bill called for education funding to be less reliant on property taxes and shift more toward state income taxes. The bill passed in the House, but was not called to a vote in the Senate because elected officials were concerned about the proposed income tax increase. Lightford said officials, including Governor Blagojevich, fretted about upcoming elections.

“The governor had made a commitment that he would not raise taxes,” Lightford said.

In Forest Park, workshops are held each year to educate residents and store owners on property taxes and how they can get them lowered. The last was held on Oct. 11 at the Forest Park Community Center.

“Every taxpayer should take advantage of those workshops,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.

Property taxpayers have three main options: file for homeowner’s exemption with the assessor, file for senior citizen’s exemption and file for an appeal.

The deadline to file an appeal in Proviso Township with the assessor was Oct. 21, but residents can still file an appeal with the Cook County Board of Review. The date has not yet been set, but is usually about two to three months after the assessor deadline.

The Board of Review accepts appeals for a little over a month from property owners who want to lower their taxes by comparing the value of their property with the value of surrounding properties.

If the value of the property is judged to be out of line with comparable houses in the area, that would in effect lower the tax bill, according to Kevin Burns, a Board of Review member speaking on behalf of Commissioner Maureen Murphy.

Burns said approximately 60 percent of appeals are eligible for a reduction of taxes and the rest are subject to no change. He said it is rare for the Board of Review to raise the value of a property.

Proviso Township residents will also feel the effects of the assessor’s new 7-percent tax cap in their 2006 second installment tax bill. The tax cap, implemented in Chicago in 2003, resulted in an average tax savings of 11.5 percent to residents in Chicago, according to the Civic Federation, a non-partisan tax advisory organization.

The cap was issued as immediate relief by the assessor in an attempt to avoid “sticker shock” when properties are assessed every three years in Cook County. The county is assessed every three years due to the volume of properties.

For information on how to appeal your assessment, call the Board of Review at 312/603-4693.