Kadner: Suburban tax rates double those in Chicago
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 June 26, 2012 9:50PM
Michael J. Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois gave the keynote address at the 5th Annual Elmhurst College Governmental Forum. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:25AM
A homeowner in Chicago is paying a property tax rate of about 5.4 percent compared with a 10.5 percent rate in Cook County suburbs.
But that figure is really misleading when you get to the south suburbs, where Ford Heights residents are paying a tax rate of 27 percent on their homes’ equalized assessed value.
County Clerk David Orr on Tuesday released the 2011 property tax rates for more than 1,500 taxing agencies in Chicago and the suburbs (www.cookcountyclerk.com).
Don’t blame Orr for the tax rates. His office merely computes them based on the tax levy (the total amount of property tax money sought) set by towns, school districts, library districts, townships and all other local governments that get property tax funds.
The startling disparity between Chicago tax rates and those in the Southland demonstrate how Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan are misleading people when they say there would be little or no impact on the suburbs from a shift in teacher pension costs from the state to school districts.
Quinn and Madigan either fail to understand the strain that many Southland homeowners are feeling under the weight of property tax bills, or they simply don’t care.
Chicago Heights homeowners are paying tax rates of from 14.7 percent to 20 percent, increases of as much as 30 percent over 2010. That’s three to four times the tax rates of Chicago homeowners.
Madigan complains that the teachers’ pension system is unfair to Chicago, but you don’t hear a peep out of him about how unfair and confusing the property tax system is in Cook County.
Maybe that’s because his law firm makes a bundle appealing tax bills.
Country Club Hills homeowners pay a composite property tax rate of 17 percent, more than three
times as much as the people in Chicago.
Yet in north suburban New Trier Township, residents of Northfield pay a composite tax rate of 6.1 percent, while in wealthy Wilmette and Winnetka the rates are 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Residents who live in Orland School District 135 pay a composite tax rate of from 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent. But in the Hazel Crest portion of Flossmoor School District 161 the tax rate is 15.7 percent.
Most of Park Forest is in Cook County, and homeowners there are paying rates of between 20 percent and 25 percent.
One reason tax rates are higher in some areas and lower in others is that commercial property can bring in a lot more tax revenue, reducing the tax rate. As a rule, the fewer businesses a town has, the higher its tax rate.
Communities with higher property value (more $500,000 homes) can raise more money by taxing at a lower rate than a town with mostly $50,000 homes.
The problem is that the poorer your community, the fewer businesses you tend to have because there’s less disposable income.
That means higher tax rates on the businesses that exist, reducing their profit margins and forcing them to close or move to another location where property taxes are lower.
In addition, poorer towns tend to have a greater need for police and social services, increasing taxes, or if tax money is not available, further reducing the quality of life. Dolton, Riverdale and Phoenix, all struggling municipalities, have tax rates of 16.4 to 20.5 percent.
I wonder how Chicago homeowners would react if their tax rates went from 5.4 percent to 20.5 percent.
Madigan (D-Chicago) laments Chicago’s double taxation for city and suburban teacher pensions, but the typical Chicago taxpayer pays about 53 percent of his property tax bill to the Chicago Public Schools. In the suburbs, 60 percent to 70 percent of most homeowners’ tax bill goes to support their public schools.
And while Quinn, Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) contend that the teacher pension shift will not affect tax bills, Cook County residents are getting a 7 percent homestead exemption that was approved by the Legislature in 2004.
That exemption is going to be expiring over the next few years, meaning tax bills will be going up throughout Cook County, even if property values remain low.
Suburban mayors and state legislators are always trying to work with Chicago politicians, but the Chicago Crew consistently screws the suburbs.
The rising property tax is
forcing people out of their homes and destroying the business climate.
And it’s high because state officials failed to adequately fund public education, just like they failed to fund the state pension systems.