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CHICAGO — Cook County property owners are getting their latest property tax bills and that is creating some sticker shock. Across the county, second installment 2018 property tax bills are up an average of 4% from 2017. On the North Side of Chicago, homeowners could see an 11% increase in their bill, while South Side homeowners could see a 1% increase. These taxes are due August 1. David Merriman, a professor of public administration at University of Illinois at Chicago, said the property tax issue is caused by several factors. Merriman said county governments, city governments and school districts all play a part. Merriman said the city’s taxes have gone up due to a plan that gradually increases the tax to deal with a pension problem and other fiscal problems. Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi said the change in the property tax bills is because the system was broken before he came into office. Merriman agrees. “The assessment system was out of whack in that it assessed higher value homes too low, lower value homes too high,” he said. “And that’s being with better assessment practices.”

One Family’s Story

Attila and Candice Farberg have lived in their Wilmette home since 1984. They have seen their property taxes modestly go up 2% to 3% to 6% over the years. They’ve even gotten refunds. But they told WGN News it has never been like this. “The word legalized robbery comes to mind,” Attila Farberg said. The Farberg’s tax bill went up $5,000 to a little over $21,000 in one year. “The assessed value went up 30.79%” Attila Farberg said. “And the estimated market value went from $754,000 to a hair under a million.” They said don’t believe their house is worth a million dollars. The Farbergs said they want to pay their fair share but this all at once and 30% is unfair.

Elsewhere in Cook County

Some critics of this system have said that it unfairly taxes homeowners more than corporations. Merriman said this is not the case — businesses are valued at 25% of market values, whereas home and rental properties are valued at 10% in Cook County. Others have expressed concern that booming neighborhoods, like West Loop, will drive out residents with the high property taxes when they purchased the property so low. Merriman said that it is a problem for cash, but now these residents have an asset that is worth a lot more. On Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago Cubs co-owner and Wilmette resident, Todd Ricketts, paid a property tax based on a much older and smaller house that he tore down to make a new home. This likely gave him a huge discount that may have totaled tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Merriman said that the Cook County Assessor’s Office should not have missed this issue. He said Rickets should have filed building permits and sent them to the assessor for a reassessment. This did not happen, and it is hard to know how widespread this problem is. Merriman did say that the assessor’s office is understaffed, and the system could probably be fairer if they had more resources to work with.

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