Most Cook County tax rates up 10% or more
At least 10% rate hikes expected in most of Cook
Nearly all suburban Cook County municipalities, schools and park districts are raising their tax rates by double-digit percentages, according to the list of 2011 rates for more than 1,500 taxing agencies released Tuesday by Cook County Clerk David Orr's office.
Those increases will offset declining commercial and residential property values in the North and Northwest suburbs, which fell between 9 percent and 12 percent last year.
But for the vast majority of taxpayers, lower property values will not translate to lower property tax bills, which are expected to arrive in mailboxes in early July for the first time in decades.
"I think some taxpayers believe that their property tax is driven by the value of their home ... because that is how most all taxation works (such as income and sales taxes)," Director of Tax Extension Bill Vaselopulos said. "Here, the rates adjust itself. If values drop the rates go up."
Tax rates are calculated by using the amount of dollars levied by the taxing agency and the value of all taxable property located within its boundaries. Most taxing agencies increase their levies each year, so lower taxable property values, or equalized assessed values, result in higher tax rates.
Such was the case in Rosemont, where the village's tax rate jumped 19.2 percent. But officials said taxpayers can't read much into the figure.
"The increase in tax rate is one of the most deceiving things to look at," Village Attorney John Donahue said.
He and Finance Director Don Calmeyn said the village raised its tax levy by just $203,000 in this year's $200 million budget, and that $17.6 million in taxes were abated to residents.
Donahue and Calmeyn attributed the sizable rate hike to a $42 million, or 13 percent, drop in Rosemont's EAV. They said the village is home to many hotels and large office buildings, which have been hit hard by the economy.
An even larger increase of 23.7 percent came in Rolling Meadows. Finance Director Melissa Gallagher said pensions account for 86 percent of the city's levy, and that officials had to increase the levy by $1.2 million to more adequately fund them.
Prospect Heights' tax rate jumped 200 percent, by far the biggest municipal tax rate increase in the Northwest suburbs. City Administrator Anne Marrin said it reflects the first third of the $15 million bond sale approved by voters in November 2010 for road construction and repairs.
The equalization factor issued by the Illinois Department of Revenue also factors into the tax rate calculation. The equalizer, which decreased 10 percent this year to 2.9706, is the factor needed to bring the total assessed value of all properties to a level equal to one-third of the market value for all Cook County real estate.
Vaselopulos said the lower equalizer reflects the economic downturn, noting that a 10 percent drop is the largest-ever decrease.
Another trend Cook County officials said taxpayers will notice is the phasing out of the homeowners exemption, which will further shift the tax burden from commercial properties to residential properties.
The exemption amount is based on the three-year reassessment cycle.
In the Northwest suburbs, where properties were reassessed last year, the maximum exemption this year is $16,000. It will drop to $12,000 in 2013 and then bottom out at $6,000 the following year.
Residents in South suburban Cook County, where properties were reassessed this year, remain eligible for the $20,000 exemption. Chicago homeowners are eligible only for a reduced maximum exemption of $12,000 this year.
Vaselopulos said some homeowners can continue receiving exemptions, including those for longtime homeowners and seniors.
For a full list of tax rates, visit cookcountyclerk.com.