from Local Attorney, Michael H. Wasserman

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ALERT: NEWLY ENACTED COOK COUNTY PROPERTY TAX LAW (and two more pending changes to watch out for)

Like most all of you (I imagine) I have been spending every waking hour by the front door, staring at the mailbox, waiting for the letter carrier person to deliver my 2008 2nd Installment Property Tax bill. OK, maybe not. For the 16th year of the last 17 (by my count, anyway) tax bills will be delivered late. No word from anyone I've spoke with on when to expect them.

But let us leave that sleeping dog lie for a moment. Lets look forward to next year's property taxes... and to pieces of legislation still pending action


Two weeks ago, Governor Quinn signed SB2125 into law. Beginning in 2010, the 1st installment of property tax bills in Cook County will be computed at 55% of the total of each tax bill for the preceding year (up from 50%) The purpose of the bill is to reduce payment pressure on taxpayers when actual tax numbers are calculated and reflected in the second bill.

Counties with 3 million or more residents (i.e., Cook) can also now change their tax cycles from two annual installments to four.

This change does not increase over-all payments in any way. It just puts more of our tax dollars into government coffers earlier in the year.

Homeowners who do not escrow for property taxes with their mortgage lenders should plan accordingly.

Still on the Docket:

HB 250 would suspend the Cook County Assessor's traditional triennial reassessment of Cook County properties (residential, commercial, and industrial) for another year and compel reassessment of the whole county again for 2009. The bill would also preclude the Assessor from using a mathematical or other mechanical factor to conduct the reassessment.

Given the continued decline in property values this year, another re-assessment will likely benefit many taxpayers (yeah!) put added cost into the administration of the assessor's office (ouch!), further diminish governmental tax revenue (so sorry) and - i imagine - cause further reductions of governmental services (oops).

HB296 is the third, triennial legislative revisiting of the "7 percent" Alternative General Homestead Exemption, (actually a 7% percent assessment cap-on-the-cap). Way back in the good old days (2004?), when property values were soaring ever higher, tax assessments (and tax bills) naturally started to follow as well. The cap was a temporary device that would dampen the effects of rising tax valuations by limiting how high a taxpayer's assessments could increase from year to year over the course of the first (and subsequently second) three year cycle.

Perhaps it may seem a bit silly to revisit this "problem" right now, given that property values have (by and large) declined over the last three years, but why should that stop our heroes in Springfield?

As proposed, the cap would increase from $20,000 to $60,000 and finally become permanent. As with HB250, this bill is also currently in the House Rules Committee.