Where rising assessments are boosting property tax bills most
Property tax assessments are climbing right along with housing prices in the suburbs, which means bigger tax bills for some homeowners.
The assessed value of residential properties in 50 suburban townships increased an average of 11 percent over the past three years.
But the rise in assessments varies widely, from 32.7 percent for homes in Kane County's Plato Township to as little as 1.3 percent in Lake County's Antioch Township.
Owners whose property assessments rose more than in neighboring townships are likely to see more significant property tax increases for services they share, which can include schools, parks, libraries, municipalities and county government.
"That's always been one of the inefficiencies of over-relying on property taxes," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan government finance think tank based in Chicago. "It reallocates tax burden without there being any major reallocation of wealth. You wouldn't assume incomes are growing at those same rates."
Home sales are among the main drivers of assessments. In 2016, the median sales price for homes in Chicago and the suburbs increased 6 percent from the previous year, according to data collected by Illinois Realtors, a statewide real estate marketing, research and lobbying group.
In Kane County, the median price spiked 7.9 percent from the previous year, compared to a 6.5 percent increase in Cook County, a 4.5 percent increase in DuPage County and a 1.4 percent increase in Lake County.
Many Kane County townships experienced above-average residential assessment growth over the past three years, mainly due to home sale prices, assessors said.
"Even though there hasn't been a lot, new homes are really expensive here," said Geneva Township Assessor Denise Lacure. "And our resale market is really strong. Sales over the past three years have been really good in this area and that's driven up assessments."
In Plato Township, new construction fueled the growth in the township's residential assessments. The township added nearly 16 percent more homes to the tax rolls in 2016 than existed in 2014, according to a Daily Herald analysis of township assessment records in six suburban counties. That growth diminished increases to assessed values of the homes already there.
That's not what happened in the rest of the region. From 2014 to 2016, the number of new homes added to the tax rolls in all 50 townships increased by just half a percent.
In Geneva Township, there was scant new construction and assessments rose 24.7 percent from 2014 to 2016, which drove up the average assessed residential property value 23.4 percent. Homeowners there are likely seeing higher spikes to their property tax bills than many other Kane County residents.
"Where it would really accelerate a tax bill is in a shared school district between townships with unequal assessment growth," said Mark Armstrong, Kane County's supervisor of assessments.
Geneva City Councilman Jim Radecki, a real estate broker, said his constituents have complained about the assessment growth and its effect on taxes.
"People are paying $10,000 to $12,000 a year in property taxes in what would be considered a modest home in Geneva and it's becoming prohibitive to live here," he said.
"We're pushing people out who otherwise could afford to live here just because of property taxes."
The accelerated growth of assessed value as the real estate market recovers from the Great Recession has also increased the number of appeals.
Louis Apostal, executive director of the state's Property Tax Appeal Board, said filings to his agency are up nearly 30 percent from 2014 to 2016.
The state appeal board gets cases after the township assessor and county board of review have ruled on a property owner's request for reassessment.
Tax bills rise even when property values don't. Without new growth, particularly commercial development, residential property owners shoulder the burden of increased property taxes levied by government agencies mostly to keep up with rising personnel costs.
"The amount of commercial property available to tax will greatly impact the amount of taxes levied across the residential properties," Martire said.
Township assessors complain high taxes can stall development.
"It's not people complaining about the value; it's the taxes we can't do anything about," said Antioch Township Assessor Heather Kufalk-Marotta. "Our taxes are just ridiculous and people are moving over the border because the property taxes are so much cheaper in Wisconsin."