Cook County Taxes Surge

In 2022, the north and northwest suburbs of Cook County experienced a significant uptick in property tax bills, seeing a collective increase of $331 million. This rise primarily impacted residential properties, which bore the brunt of the burden this year. Several factors contributed to this surge, including higher levies imposed by school districts, the reversal of a COVID-era adjustment, and a new provision in the Illinois tax code enabling taxing bodies to recover funds from property owners. Following the latest assessment by Cook County, the median residential tax bill in the north and northwest suburbs rose sharply by 15.7%, soaring from $6,056 to $7,008. This spike represents the most substantial increase observed in the past 30 years, as analyzed by the Cook County Treasurer’s Office.


Residential property taxes in the north and northwest suburbs surged by 12.9%, totaling an increase of $387 million. Conversely, commercial property taxes in the same region decreased by 2.7%, amounting to a reduction of $56 million. It's important to note that not all property owners experienced a tax hike; approximately 22% of north suburban residents saw a decrease in their tax bills.


This shift in tax dynamics follows Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi's decision to reduce almost 20% from the total assessed value of commercial and industrial properties set by the assessor, as approved by the Cook County Board of Review. Consequently, homeowners are bearing the majority of the countywide tax burden this year, with 81% of Cook County property owners facing higher taxes. Overall, Cook County's taxes rose by 5.4%, equivalent to $909 million, with residents shouldering $599 million, or two-thirds, of that increase.


In the south and southwest suburbs, currently undergoing reassessment for the next year, property taxes increased by $173 million. Residential taxes in these areas rose by 4.1%, equating to $98 million, while commercial property taxes increased by 5.1%, amounting to $75 million. Cook County follows a three-year rotating reassessment schedule, covering the city of Chicago, northern suburbs, and southern suburbs. The significant spike in property taxes in the northern suburbs can be attributed in part to this year's reassessment.


North suburban homeowners now face considerable sticker shock as the COVID-related adjustments made during the pandemic, which reduced home values, have disappeared. At the pandemic's onset, Kaegi's office assessed home values by estimating local increases in unemployment, resulting in a median 10% countywide reduction. However, these adjustments have vanished, and Kaegi's initial estimate proved inaccurate. Contrary to expectations, the residential housing market flourished as residents transitioned from apartments to single-family homes. Simultaneously, commercial property values declined, necessitating homeowners to cover a larger portion of the tax bill.


Notably, school districts contributed significantly to the rise in levies from Cook County's taxing agencies, accounting for a $572.9 million increase countywide. Additionally, a little-known state tax law, the "recapture law," played a substantial role in this year's tax hikes. Under this law, non-home rule communities, excluding Chicago, can raise taxes to compensate for funds paid to taxpayers who successfully lowered their assessments through appeals. This mechanism allowed various agencies within Chicago, such as Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District, to benefit, with substantial revenues being generated.

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