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Article updated: 11/21/2011 5:14 AM

DuPage County property assessments continue falling

By Robert Sanchez

Residential property assessments in DuPage County, which are used to determine next year's tax bills for homeowners, have fallen by nearly 7 percent due to the struggling housing market.

But the downward trend doesn't translate into homeowners paying less in property taxes to schools and other local governments.

After seeing the overall value of land in DuPage fall for the first time in decades last year, all nine of the county's township assessors again have reported property assessment declines.

Assessments are based on property sales data from the previous three calendar years -- in this case 2008 through 2010.

The biggest change occurred in Addison Township, which experienced a 9.8 percent drop. Lisle and Naperville townships had the smallest downturn, with assessments falling about 5.6 percent.

"We've had an unprecedented residential property market in the last several years," said DuPage Supervisor of Assessments Craig Dovel. "The property values have gone down dramatically, and the assessed values are starting to follow that trend."

Overall, DuPage's total assessed residential property value of roughly $31 billion is nearly 7 percent lower than it was last year, officials said.

Individual assessment notices started going out to homeowners and businesses in September. The notices hit the mail at different times, depending on when each township is done assessing properties. Nov. 15 was the deadline for the township assessors to complete their work.

One point officials stress is that falling assessments don't necessarily mean a drop in property taxes.

Higher property taxes are the result of increased spending by the local taxing bodies, which ask for specific amounts of tax dollars each year through a levy.

Since 1991, a state-imposed cap has limited the amount many taxing bodies can increase their levies to either the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is lower. But even with the cap, tax rates still can increase if the overall taxable value of property drops.

Township assessors are expecting more residential property owners to file challenges of their homes' assessments.

Dovel said he won't know if that's the case until the period for filing a complaint is completed for all nine townships.

For information about filing an appeal, visit the Supervisor of Assessments website at dupageco.org/SOA.

The filing deadlines already have passed for Bloomingdale, Addison and Winfield townships.

While successfully challenging an assessment is one way homeowners could lower their tax bills, county officials say it only forces others to pay more.

In the meantime, Dovel isn't predicting when he expects property values or assessments to stabilize and start climbing.

"I don't see any reason to indicate that the trend is going to do anything different," he said. "It's going to be going down again next year."

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