America's Property Tax Advisor

Cook County Tax Bills Headed Up

by Bob Tivnan, Chicago, July 2016

The Cook County Clerk’s Office recently released the 2015 Tax Rate Report. It reveals the second installment property tax bills are generally higher for many property owners in Cook County, Illinois.


Residential tax bills are going up 12.8 percent on average in the City of Chicago, while modest increases are reported in the North and South Suburbs. Most owners of business properties will see their bills increase, depending on where they are located. The bills are due Monday, August 1, 2016.


One for the Record Books


For the first time, the total of taxes billed by all taxing districts in Cook County exceeds $13 billion, according to the Cook County Clerk. Last year, the total was $12.4 billion.


Taxes billed by all taxing jurisdictions in the City of Chicago exceed $1 billion for the first time. This is a 34% increase over 2014 when total taxes amounted to $774 million.


Tax Rates Fall


There are many interesting statistics from the 2015 Tax Rate Report. One in particular is the overall decrease in the City of Chicago’s average equalized tax rate. It fell by roughly 1.23% from 18.553% in 2014 to approximately 18.325% in 2015. The equalized tax rate is a combination of the state equalization factor and the local tax rate. This aggregate rate is applied to a property’s assessed value to calculate the taxes.


The tax rate reduction stemmed from the citywide revaluation that increased the equalized valuation base by 9.3%. Also there was 2.1% decline in the state equalization factor from 2.7253 in 2014 to 2.6685 in 2015. Another factor was the marginal increase in the average local city tax rate from 6.808% in 2014 to 6.867% in 2015 before any Special Service Area (SSA) taxing districts.


Pension Problems Persist


In Chicago, the newly released tax bills reflect a $363 million dollar property tax increase. Under state law, the tax hike required approval from both the City Council and the Chicago Board of Education.


The majority of the funds ($318 million) will go to pensions for police officers and fire fighters. This is the largest of four annual increases approved in an effort to restore financial soundness to the retirement systems. Increases totaling $225 million over the next three years have been approved.


This year, another $45 million will be collected for major school construction projects.


Potential Tax Relief for Some


In light of the higher tax bills, city officials are considering a rebate for residential property owners. This comes after the Legislature failed to approve a bill protecting owners of houses worth less than $250,000 from paying higher taxes this year. Business groups strongly opposed giving homeowners the tax exemption. They argued that commercial properties would be forced to make up the difference.


If approved, the rebate won't be the first time that property tax rebates are given to homeowners. They were given twice under former Mayor Richard Daley. The last time they were offered in 2010, many homeowners actually failed to take them.