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Article updated: 6/25/2013 5:57 PM

Suburban property tax bills to see varying increases

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Suburban Cook County taxpayers overall will pay about 3 percent more in property taxes this year, in line with the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

When the second installment of the 2012 property tax bills arrives in mailboxes around July 1, however, individual property owners may find their bills up or down considerably more, depending on a host of factors. Tax bills are due Aug. 1.

Composite tax rates in indivual suburbs increased as little as 6.75 percent to as much as 20 percent, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr's office, which Tuesday released the 2012 property tax rates of more than 1,500 taxing agencies.

The assessed value for properties in suburban Cook County townships may have decreased by 7 percent to 9 percent, county officials said, likely due to successful residential and commercial/industrial property tax appeals, which results in higher tax rates for the majority of taxing districts.

Those who either didn't appeal their assessments or weren't successful in their appeal will pay more to make up for those who got reductions, a process known as cost-shifting.

Individual tax bills also may vary based on adjustments due to homeowner and senior exemptions or dramatic changes in assessment, Bill Vaselopulos, director of real estate and tax services for the clerk's office, said at a news conference.

Including Chicago, Cook County billed nearly $12 billion in property taxes in 2012, up 2.2 percent from $11.7 billion in 2011. Tax rates are calculated by using the amount of dollars levied by a taxing agency and the value of all taxable property within its boundaries.

"If values drop and levies remain flat or increase slightly, the rates go up," Vaselopulos said. "That does not mean your tax bill will go up because the higher rate will be multiplied against a lower taxable value. And identical properties on the same block can have vastly different tax bills, depending on their exemptions."

The county also is phasing out the alternative homestead exemption -- which since 2004 has capped how high assessments can spike in a given year -- over the next two years in the north and south regions where properties are assessed on a triennial basis.

"It kept assessments down for a short period of time," Vaselopulos said. "The value was just withheld and delayed for taxation."

North and Northwest suburban Cook County residents are entering their third and final year under the cap, with homeowners eligible for a reduced maximum exemption of $12,000 this year, down from $16,000.

Senior citizens also are entitled to property tax breaks based on age and based on income. Seniors must reapply annually for these exemptions and should check their bills to make sure they received them. Information on the tax breaks is available online at cookcountyboardofreview.com/html/exem_faq.html or by contacting the county clerk, cookcountyclerk.com, or township assessor's offices.

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