Seminars held to fight confusion over property value assessments

Breanne Gilpatrick

Jack Hinz was used to seeing the assessed property value of his southeast Evanston home increase by 2 or 3 percent every three years. But when he received a reassessment notice from the Cook County assessor two weeks ago informing him of a near 300 percent increase, he said it seemed like something was wrong.

So Hinz attended a property tax seminar Tuesday night with about 100 other Evanston residents looking for more information on their assessments and appeals. The seminar at Chute Middle School Auditorium, 1400 Oakton St., was one of three seminars sponsored by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), Cook County Assessor James Houlihan, state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and state Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) to help residents with the reassessment process.

About 125 people attended the first seminar July 10 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., Suffredin said. The third seminar will be held 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

The Cook County Assessor reassesses property values in the city every three years. Notifications for Evanston properties were mailed last week and the median increase was around 33 percent.

Suffredin said he understands people may be concerned about reassessment notices, especially those hit with increases. He explained this was a move by the Cook County Assessor’s office to match previously underassessed Evanston homes with area market values.

But there is good news for these homeowners, Suffredin said. On Monday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed an expanded homeowner exemption bill that caps the taxable values of most homes at 7 percent. Property owners received applications for this exemption at Tuesday’s seminar.

Houlihan said that although this does not change the values given in the recent assessment notices, it does cap the assessment for tax purposes. He said homeowners will be able to see the exemption on their 2005 tax bills.

Suffredin said he is available at his office at 820 Davis St., to help with appeals. Homeowners also can make appointments with Evanston Township Assessor Sharon Eckersall.

Eckersall said her office at 846 Dodge Ave. will be open 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and until 4:30 p.m. during the other weekdays. Eckersall added that Friday is the midway point in the 45-day assessment appeals period and encourages people to make an appointment.

City Reporter Breanne Gilpatrick is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]