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Free Area Seminars Aim To Teach Edgewater How To Reduce Their Tax Bill

tax_bill-1The best way to find out if your residential Cook County property tax bill is in line with what it should be is to file an appeal of your property’s assessed value. In the process, you might even learn about some exemptions that may help reduce your overall property tax bill even more.

Here in Lakeview Township, which includes Edgewater and Andersonville, appeals may be filed until Oct. 5.

“Almost always the first question that we get is — is there any downside to filing?” Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi, 2nd District, said on Friday.

The answer is no. It’s free to file an appeal, and the appeal can be filed both online and in person at various offices around the city. 

It’s also possible to file an appeal by attending a seminar tonight at 6 p.m. at the 19th District Chicago Police Station, 850 W. Addison. Another seminar is scheduled for Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.

Appeals are usually granted because of issues regarding uniformity, Cabonargi said. In 2013, the Board of Review made favorable decisions in 63.05 percent of 402,913 property assessment appeals. 

The former SEC prosecutor’s district represents one-third of Cook County. Commissioners Larry R. Rogers Jr. and Dan Patlak comprise the rest of the three-member Board of Review.

What happens to my property tax money?

Property tax is collected each year to pay for schools (58 percent); local municipalities such as village or township services in the suburbs (23 percent); Cook County (9 percent); the Water Reclamation District, which seeks to protect the quality of the water supply source, among other things (6 percent); libraries (3 percent); and the forest preserve (1 percent.)

Who decides how much I pay, and how do they decide it?

The Cook County Assessor sets the property’s assessed value. The Board of Review reassesses appealed property assessments. The Cook County Clerk determines the tax rate. The Cook County Treasurer mails property tax bills and collects the money. And the Cook County Treasurer distributes the money to the taxing bodies.

Residential property tax bills are configured by multiplying the property’s assessed value by an equalizer as well as by the tax rate.

The assessed value is the percentage of the fair market value. Each triennial district must be reassessed every three years. That typically causes the property assessment to change.

“The assessment is over the non-interior of the home,” Cabonargi said. It looks at the land value and the improvement value. It also considers the age and style of the building and its square footage.

Cook County has a different assessed value structure than the rest of Illinois, Cabonargi said. Every other county in Illinois has the same assessment level — 33.5 percent — for residential and commercial properties. But here, residential property assessments are set at 10 percent of the fair market value, and commercial property assessments are set at 25 percent of the fair market value.

Cabonargi said one reason for this is because Chicago has a high number of commercial properties.

The equalizer is established by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

“The state creates an equalizer every year, and that is the plug-in number that makes Cook County in line with the rest of the state,” he said. “We don’t have any influence on that (number.) It’s changed every year.”

Each taxing district sets its tax rate, and the tax rate that is used as part of the formula is an aggregate of all the taxing districts, Cabonargi said. Those taxing districts set those rates each year.

“By law, each taxing district has to have a public hearing and public comment period where the public can comment on the rate each year,” he added.

What does my property tax bill contain? What are exemptions?

The first property tax bill is mailed on Feb. 1 and is due on March 1. The second bill is mailed on July 1 and is due on Aug. 1.

The first installment, called the “blue bill,” is 55 percent of the previous year’s bill. No exemptions appear on this first bill.

The second installment, called the “yellow bill,” is the remaining owed tax minus the Board of Review reduction, if applicable, as well as any filed exemptions.

There are various exemptions that help lower the overall tax bill. They include the homeowner; senior citizen (for those 65 years and older; they will need to confirm they still live in the property every year); senior freeze (for those with a household income of less than $55,000; have to reapply each year); disabled person (for those who are disabled or become disabled); disabled veteran (certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; returning veteran.

It’s possible to have multiple exemptions at the same time. For more information on exemptions, visit the Cook County Assessor’s website at www.cookcountyassessor.com.

How do I file an appeal of my property’s assessed value? What’s the process?

It’s free to file an appeal, but you have to pay your first property tax bill before you can file it. Then you’ll need to file a complaint form. That’s the first step in the appeals process. The second property tax bill cannot be calculated until the Board of Review completes its review for all 38 townships of Cook County for that particular tax year. It usually takes 10-12 weeks, if there is no hearing, for an appeals decision to be made.

Types of evidence to support your appeal can include: Information about comparable properties, the recent purchase of the property, a recent appraisal of the property, comparable sales, and special factors that are unique to the property that could affect its value, such as a fire, flood or other disaster. A picture of the property being appealed is required.

Property owners can upload evidence to the Board of Review’s website after creating an online account. If a taxpayer files an appeal without submitting evidence, a Board of Review analyst will identify what it considers to be comparable properties as evidence.

Examples of comparable properties might be a house built in or around the same year that is the same or similar size, type of construction, uses the same or similar construction materials, and is in the same or similar general condition on the same block. “We will go off the block, but we’ll stay in the neighborhood,” Cabonargi said. 

“By state statute, we hold (information on appeal filings) for five years,” he added. “We just created the electronic system last year. Before, we had a large amount (of files) at the county warehouse. Now we can move to a paperless system.”

The Board of Review creates electronic copies of its appeals, said analyst Bill Doerrer. Not only has the digital appeals processing system allowed taxpayers to file and track their appeal electronically, cutting down paper on the appeals and evidence, but it has also allowed BOR to cut down on paper used internally.

Petitioners can also request hearings for their appeals. Hearings are optional and are the owner’s right. Residents can represent themselves or they can hire an attorney. 

For more information on the appeals process, call Cabonargi’s ofice at 312-603-5560 or visit www.CookCountyBoardofReview.com. He is also available via his Facebook page, facebook.com/michaelcabonargi.

“We are making a strong push for us to connect with more constituents via our Facebook page, so we would appreciate any encouragement to ‘like’ our page,” Doerrer said. “We publish opening and closing dates, outreach dates, and information about the appeals process regularly.”

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