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Coalition Opposes Property Tax Hikes

A citywide tax reform coalition is demanding that proposals to raise property taxes be withdrawn.

The Tax Reform Action Coalition will hold a press conference at City Hall (2nd floor) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 31.

Members of the TRAC, which includes 45 community groups from across the city, hope to give public comment on the city’s budget proposal after the City Council meeting Wednesday morning.

Community activists from West Town and Brighton Park will speak at the press conference Wednesday morning. “We’ll have important people there — registered voters and taxpayers,” said Barb Head of TRAC.

The stop-gap extension of the cap on increases in property tax assessments passed recently in Springfield was “far short of what we need,” Head said. Chicago taxpayers are getting “hammered” this year by reassessments reflecting five years of strong real estate appreciation, she said, while Mayor Daley proposes a huge property tax increase and County Board President Stroger seeks a hike for the forest preserves.

As a long-term, systemic reform, TRAC backs acquisition-based assessment, limiting increases to a small percentage and reassessing properties when they are sold, based on actual purchase prices. “It’s fair and predictable,” Head said, adding that longtime residents of neighborhoods undergoing development have seen their assessments go up by hundreds of percent in recent years.

Where should the money come from, if property tax hikes are unacceptable? Head suggests looking at the $400 million a year in property tax revenue that is set aside – with no public accountability – in over 150 TIFs in the city

Citywide Property Tax Rally Called

Residents across the city are being hit by dramatic increases in their property tax assessments, and a rally Thursday is being held to demonstrate citywide support for legislation extending a homeowners’ exemption limiting increases to 7 percent – and to press for comprehensive reform.

Dozens of community groups from across the city are supporting the rally for property tax reform sponsored by the Tax Reform Action Coalition on Thursday, September 14 at 6 p.m. at Humboldt Park’s boathouse, 1500 N. Humboldt Drive.

A three-year extension of the cap on assessments, originally enacted in 2004, passed the State Senate this spring but failed in the House. Supporters hope to press for passage in the fall veto session.

The rally will show that what was considered mainly a North Side concern is “an issue that effects many communities,” said Claudia Montoya of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp.

Homeowners in West Town are averaging increases of 50 to 60 percent in their triennial assessments, and in some South Side neighborhoods assessments are going up 60 to 90 percent, said Maureen Hellwig of Erie Neighborhood House.

In workshops on appealing assessments, Humboldt Park residents have reported hikes as high as 150 percent, Montoya said. Long-time residents are being forced to move because they can’t afford property taxes, she said.

Such increases are also hard for first-time homebuyers on tight budgets, said Barb Head of TRAC.

The extension is a “band-aid,” she said, but “if we don’t get it…nobody’s going to be able to afford to live in the city.”

Beyond the extension of the cap, TRAC is proposing permanent reform based on “acquisition-based assessment” system. Properties would be reassessed when they are sold, and increases would be held to 2 percent a year until the next sale.

That system would apply to all classes of property owners, including businesses; the current homeowners’ exemption is limited to owner-occupied properties.

“What we need is stability and predictability, and that’s what acquisition-based assessment assessment would give us,” Hellwig said.

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