Recently deceased president George H.W. Bush may have made famous the iconic phrase “read my lips: no new taxes” but other politicians throughout the country have ignored that exclamation. Instead, they’ve have been an active participant in ongoing tax rate hikes that hurt homeowners and business proprietors alike. In Chicago, property tax rates are on the rise yet again and that has left local alderman scrambling for cover against the onslaught of citizen criticism.
In 2015, the alderman for the 44th district, Tom Tunney, helped pass one of Chicago’s largest ever increase in property to pay for pensions for civil servants like police officers and fireman. The increase, totaling $838 million, was also earmarked s also earmarked ear-marked for certain school construction programs. While that increase hit taxpayers hard enough, another behind-the-scenes factor began developing as well. Every three years, Chicagoans experience reassessments of their property valuations. In this most recent triennial assessment update, the average property owner experienced valuations that rose by more than 30 percent. And in some parts of the city, notably Lake View, some homeowners are complaining of valuation increases totaling 50, 60 or even 90 percent.
That leaves former tax-increaser Tunney playing a different record this time around. Now, he’s backing a resolution that will formally ask the Illinois state legislature and Cook County Board to help out property owners who have been hit hardest by the tax increases. Among the areas addressed by the resolution are requests for senior citizens to fill out their exemption paperwork every 5 years instead of annually. In addition, Tunney’s resolution seeks to raise the income thresholds to be eligible for certain exemptions from $65 to $75 thousand annually. The resolution also requests one-time capital gains exemptions.
For commercial property owners, some additional relief has also been requested, including reclassifying smaller business properties to take better advantage of assessed tax rates. The Ricketts family, some of the most influential commercial property owners in Chicago and owners of the Chicago Cubs, doesn’t think current measures are go far enough. The Cubs have asked for approval for many different projects in recent years. Although most of those initiatives got the green light to go ahead, the Ricketts family still blames Tunney for standing in the way of others.
Tunney’s resolution may take some time to gain traction with the state and county legislative bodies but citizens can still take measures to protect themselves in the meantime. Property tax attorney Gary H. Smith (https://www.garyhsmith.com) advices that property owners who partner with legal professionals can often “achieve significant tax assessment reductions.” In addition, citizens can continue contacting both their local alderman as well as officials on the Cook County Board and in the state legislature.