Mayor Richard M. Daley today called on the Cook County Assessor's Office to assure that the next re-assessment of the city captures the lower home values that many owners are experiencing because of the nation's recession. The City will be reassessed in 2009.
And the General Assembly should increase the homeowner exemption and make it permanent, Daley said.
"For years, during good economic times and bad, we've worked to protect our home and business owners by fighting to enact property tax relief in Springfield and create a system that is fair to them," Daley said in a news conference held at Ogden Park, 6500 S. Racine Ave.
"Now, property tax bills have gone out and for many neighborhoods in our city, especially those that are hardest hit economically because of the nation's recession, they will be higher, and the Assessor and the General Assembly must take action to provide relief to our taxpayers," he said.
The Mayor said the recently-received property tax bills are higher for two reasons.
First, they are based on the value of the property on January 1, 2006. That assessment was conducted by the Cook County Assessor when the nation's economy was growing and home values were much higher than they are now.
In the last two-and-a-half years, the nation's economy has slowed into a recession and home values have dropped, yet the city's property tax bills won't reflect that.
Second, the 7% cap lowers the maximum exemption level this year to $26,000 from $40,000 last year for those homeowners whose assessments went up more than 100%. This step, which the legislature mandated last year, will cost many homeowners as much as $700 in higher taxes.
"Earlier this year, I asked the General Assembly to increase the maximum exemption from $26,000, but it failed to do so," Daley said.
"As a result, this year our property taxpayers must again deal with an assessment system that is broken. The steps taken in Springfield ignored the growing economic hardship that many homeowners throughout our city are facing and that I have been warning about for years," he said.
The Mayor also pointed out that last February, he asked the Assessor's Office to begin an immediate correction of assessments, as he is permitted to do by law, of homes in the hardest hit neighborhoods of Chicago.
These are neighborhoods where home values increased the most as a result of the 2006 re-assessment but have now decreased in the current housing crisis and where people are having difficult paying higher bills.
The Mayor said that because of the city's ongoing efforts, and with the help of many other people, many exemptions have been increased in Springfield that protect taxpayers, especially those who are hardest hit in tough economic times.
These include the senior exemption, the long-term homeowner exemption, and the disabled persons, disabled veterans and veteran's exemptions.
"Among the most important of our accomplishments was the enactment of the 7% cap on property taxes in 2004. The cap alone has helped keep many local residents in their homes because it protected them from higher property tax bills that resulted from higher property assessments," Daley said.
In 2007, the General Assembly enacted a phase-out of the program which lowered homeowner exemptions until the legislation expires after next fall's tax bills. In addition, the legislation that passed that year required long-term homeowners to apply for their exemptions rather than receive them automatically.
Daley encouraged homeowners to take advantage of all the relief for which they're eligible.
"If you think your home is over-valued for assessment purposes and you have not appealed your assessment in the last two years, I want to encourage homeowners to appeal to the Board of Review when it opens this fall for the 2008 tax bills. You can't change the value on this tax bill, but it's possible you can change it on the next.
"In the special appeals period I asked for and received from the Board of Review last March, more than 30,000 taxpayers took advantage of the chance to appeal and many of them received substantial relief," he said.
The mayor said that in the next few weeks, he will announce additional property tax proposals for which he will seek approval for in Springfield during the 2009 session.
"These recommendations will be based on the work of the Property Tax Advisory Commission, which I created earlier this year to advise us on revising a broken property tax assessment system. Our homeowners need relief and it can be provided on a citywide scale only through legislation in Springfield," he said.
The mayor also reminded residents that neither the City nor the Board of Education will raise property taxes this year.
"Simply, our taxpayers need a break and we're providing it," he said.
(Residents with questions about their taxes should call 311 and ask for the Chicago Tax Assistance Center.)