By Maria Maxham
On Aug. 31, the Cook County Assessor's Office sent reassessment notices to Proviso residents, and many Forest Park homeowners were shocked with 2020 estimated fair market values, which have gone up significantly for some.
Resident Steven Hartmann was so surprised with his home's reassessment, which went up 70 percent over the 2019 fair market value, that he started both a Facebook group for residents to discuss the topic and a petition to send to the assessor, with the names and addresses of concerned residents.
Hartmann moved to Forest Park two years ago and lives in a single-family home with his wife and two children. In 2018, he appealed his reassessment and won. But this year, he said, he was floored to see the increase.
"Such a drastic increase is really going to pull the rug out from under some people," Hartmann said.
Hartmann said some people who want to live in this area but don't want to pay the historically higher taxes in Oak Park and River Forest have chosen Forest Park, in part because of lower taxes. Recent property reassessments could change this, potentially eliminating the lower taxes which have for years been an attractive aspect of moving to town.
Because of an outpouring of resident concern – and many phone calls to the village – Mayor Rory Hoskins held a town hall on Sept. 21 to address reassessments. Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and two other representatives from the assessor's office were present on the Zoom meeting to explain the reassessment process and the appeal process.
The assessor's office addressed the following issues:
Why are Forest Park home reassessments so high this year?
According to Nicole Jardine of the assessor's office, the office tries to find a fair way to valuate homes.
"Our job is to estimate a fair value for all of the homes. And the only fair way to do that is to use data," said Jardine. Data has shown the assessor's office that over the past few years, estimated values of homes have increased about 21 percent. In terms of sales, Forest Park homes have shown a steady increase since 2015. The median sales price for a single-family home in Forest Park was $159K in 2015; it rose to $215K in 2019.
"Sales prices have gone up, equity has increased," said Jardine. "This has been kind of a reassuring trend. We've been seeing this in most places in the south and west suburbs, that a lot of these communities are actually recovering really well from that global financial crisis."
Since homes are reassessed every three years, last time in 2017 and now in 2020, the assessments need to "catch up to a lot of market growth," Jardine said. "So that's why we often see these big percentage changes, when really, it's just kind of realigning to the market."
How will my reassessment affect my tax bill?
It's hard to say.
First, you won't see the effect of the reassessment on this year's tax bill. You'll see it on your summer 2021 bill. The uncertainty of not knowing exactly what your property tax bill will look like for so many months can be disconcerting.
But the percent increase in fair market value of a home doesn't necessarily mean an equal percent increase in property taxes, according to the assessor's office.
Just because your house's assessed value increased by, say, 40 percent this year, that doesn't mean your property taxes in 2021 will be 40 percent higher too.
Jardine provided an example of a home in Forest Park, which, like all homes in town, was reassessed in 2017. The estimated value of that home increased by about 22 percent, according to Jardine. But the corresponding tax bill only increased by 10 percent.
"That percent change in assessed value doesn't always mean that's how much your taxes are going to increase," Jardine said. She said this happens a lot because "the office is catching up to what has been multiple years of growth in most areas." When the base grows, the tax rate tends to go down, she said.
As Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi explained in the town hall meeting, there are a few different factors that determine how much your property taxes will be. First, there are the levies that reflect local taxing bodies' needs. The largest percentage of property tax goes to schools, but the library, fire department, mosquito abatement program and other entities and programs get a percentage of property tax.
Typically, these percentages are fairly stable from year to year. There's more uncertainty now, said Kaegi, because nobody knows for sure how COVID is going to affect the needs of the village and how much federal and state aid will come in.
At the same time, individual properties are reassessed, and there are a few factors that go into that. Different types of property are reassessed and adjusted differently. According to Kaegi, two to six-unit properties are seeing a bigger downward COVID adjustment than single family homes are. That means, theoretically, that single family homes might have a slightly higher tax burden. But the reason for the bigger downward adjustment for these multi-family units has to do with how they will be affected by a downturn in the economy due to COVID.
Smaller, two to six-unit buildings are more sensitive to a downturn in the economy, Kaegi said. Unlike larger, professionally managed apartment buildings, these tend to be "mom and pop" family businesses. "The people who own the buildings don't have as many resources to absorb the kind of economic cataclysm that is COVID-19," Kaegi said.
So instead of a 9 percent COVID adjustment for single family home in Forest Park, a multi-family home might see an 11 or 12 percent adjustment, Kaegi said.
He added that single family homes did not rise as much as the commercial property values rose in the assessments.
"So based on the numbers that we have, residential homeowners' share of the total assessed value in Proviso is down by about five percentage points from where it was before," Kaegi said.
What is the COVID adjustment?
Due to economic and market effects related to COVID-19, the Cook County Assessor's Office decided to provide a downward adjustment to reassessed values.
However, about 1,800 homes in Forest Park were sent reassessment notices that did not reflect the 9 percent COVID reduction, said Jardine. Residents whose COVID reduction isn't on their reassessment notice do not need to do anything; a letter will be sent within two months with the new assessment number.
How can I appeal my property reassessment?
Property reassessment appeals in Proviso Township can be made until Oct. 5. You don't need a lawyer, tax representative, or other professional to appeal, though you can choose to use one.
All forms are available online at cookcountyassessor.com/appeals.
The Howard Mohr Community Center helps residents, especially seniors, with the appeals process, and the village can put residents in touch with resources too. The village of Forest Park can be reached at 708-366-2323.
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