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Article posted: 5/4/2013 8:00 AM

Lake County tax bills see values drop, rates increase

By Mick Zawislak

Tax bills will arrive the next few days in the mailboxes of Lake County property owners -- as sure a sign of spring as emerging flowers but not as welcome.

Lake County Treasurer Robert Skidmore's office mailed 264,000 tax bills this past week, with the reminders that installments are due June 6 and Sept. 6 and that there are many ways to pay.

The bills again will reflect a depressed real estate market. What taxpayers most likely will notice is that tax rates for various entities will jump to offset the lower property value. Property values are based on the past three years of sales, explained Kipp Wilson, tax extension administrator for the Lake County clerk's office, which calculates the rates.

Overall, the equalized assessed property value in Lake County for 2012 taxes being paid this year, after exemptions, is about $24.5 billion. That's a decrease of more than 8 percent from last year.

"It's been declining, and we're not seeing any daylight at the end of the tunnel anytime soon because it's a three-year average," he said.

Tax rates in a given jurisdiction are adjusted so that multiplying them by the property value equals the tax extension, the amount a given taxing body decides it needs to operate.

"Like anything else, the bills just seem to be going up and the value drops in many cases. It's just the hardest thing to explain to homeowners," Skidmore said.

Taxpayers can compare several years of property values and extensions by visiting lakecountyclerk.info and clicking the menu for tax information.

"As the value of the homes go down and your rates continue to climb, the reason they're climbing is the taxing districts ask for the same amount or more," Skidmore added. "What can we eliminate that's on your bill to make the bill go down? Most people don't have an answer."

Skidmore said taxpayers should review their bills to ensure they are receiving all the eligible exemptions, which can lower the current bill.

The value of property or assessment can't be appealed until the 30-day period after assessment rolls are published, which begins in late July and continues into August. Those values will be for 2013 taxes payable in 2014.

Under new rules adopted this past March by the Lake County Board of Review, property owners can represent themselves or hire lawyers to appeal property assessments but can no longer use real estate agents or specialty firms.

For general information on tax bills, visit the treasurer's website www.lakecountyil.gov/treasurer/.

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