Botched Cook County Property Tax Relief Backfires On Working Class, Minorities

Submitted by Mark Glennon of Wirepoints

This one was so easy to see coming we can only say, “Duh,” instead of our usual “Told you so.”

Last year, Chicago lawmakers wanted a way to soften the blow of the city’s recent property tax increases, or at least make it look softer. Singling out the city wasn’t workable, so they got Springfield to pass increases in the homeowners and senior exemptions for all of Cook County.

The Chicago Tribune last week detailed the actual results. The broadened exemptions merely shifted the tax burden to to other properties. Many properties were taken off the tax rolls entirely, leaving the remainder to pay the bills. The levy — total taxes raised — didn’t drop. The consequence has been a “perfect storm,” the Tribune says, for many communities already in a property tax catastrophe.

We weren’t the only ones who saw that coming. The Daily Herald and Illinois News Network, among others, wrote about it. We said it was a wonderful illustration of rampant idiocy in the Illinois General Assembly.

The actual effect of the stunt has been particularly pronounced in Chicago’s south suburbs, which are largely working class and African-American. The map of Cook County below is from the Tribune article. Communities shown in red lost more than 5% of their equalized assessed value, which is basically their property tax base.

Their situation was already beyond impossible. We wrote here three years ago about its average property tax rates in the south suburbs — which then already exceeded 5% — robbing hundreds of thousands of families of their home equity.

For commercial properties it’s even worse — far beyond absurd. Commercial rates in Cook County generally are 2.5X the residential rates. In some south suburbs, as the Tribune reported, commercial property owners end up paying the same amount in taxes over seven years as they did for the property itself.

The Tribune profiled one business owner, Tony Sanchez, who owns a paving company. “The Markham property he’s owned for decades has an assessed value of about $511,000. This year, his tax bill topped $86,000 — more than three times as much as he would be paying for a Chicago business property worth the same amount.”

The anointed champions of Illinois’ working class and minorities are anything but.