Housing Values To Be Reassessed, Could Raise Property Taxes

Libby Nelson

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By Libby NelsonThe Daily Northwestern

Property taxes in Evanston might increase sharply next year due to a reassessment of home values.

Cook County commissioner Larry Suffredin discussed ways to appeal the tax hike in a meeting with about 40 Evanston residents Thursday night at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.

“You’re the people who can protect your neighborhood,” Suffredin said. “We are losing businesses. We are losing residents.”

The Cook County Assessor’s Office determines the value of homes in the county every three years. The state then uses the assessed values to calculate the owners’ property taxes.

This year, the assessed value of an Evanston home increased by an average of 30 percent, or about $11,600.

But the complexity of the state’s formula means a 30 percent increase in reassessment may not equal a 30 percent increase in property taxes, Suffredin said.

Because the figure is a median, some residents might see higher or lower changes in their property taxes.

Success rates for appeals to the assessor’s office during the last reassessment were about 23 percent, he said.

Evanston is the first township in the northern quarter of Cook County to be reassessed. The increase is the beginning of an effort to correct what the state legislature sees as years of undervaluing of properties in the county, Suffredin said.

The increase means that Cook County could have the highest percentage of residents not paying taxes on time since the 1930s, he said.

“I just think it spells disaster if we don’t think about what will happen to the area,” said Karen Johnson, a south Evanston resident.

Johnson said the increases are unfair to some residents of south Evanston because of the area’s crime and education problems.

Michael McNamara, another south Evanston resident, said that while the increases will not affect him much personally, they could be a problem for others.

“It’s not the biggest issue in the neighborhood, but it will compound the problems a stagnant (real estate) market creates,” he said.

“For people who have kids and families, the big increase will make a difference, especially since underperforming schools are a big problem. People feel they’re not getting services they’re paying for.”

Suffredin encouraged residents to appeal their assessments early, though the changes to property taxes will not appear on residents’ bills until September 2008.

“(The assessor’s office) believes they are right, and there’s nothing worse than someone who makes a decision and believes that they’re right,” McNamara said.

Reach Libby Nelson at libbynelson@northwestern.edu.