Homeowners who’ve seen their equity vanish, or who owe more than their home is worth, might be hoping to catch a break on the property tax bills scheduled to hit mailboxes in early October.
When the ever-more-complex tax computations are complete, some homeowners will see some relief, while others will be left smarting.
Payment of the second installment 2010 tax bills is expected to come due around the first week of November.
Falling property values and lower assessments caused tax rates to rise, particularly in the reassessed north and northwest suburbs, where composite rates rose by 7 to 22 percent.
For many homeowners, those higher rates will be applied to assessments that rise at a rate of 7 percent a year. That’s because a seven-year-old tax relief measure, aimed at buffering homeowners from tax whiplash during the real estate boom, is still phasing in those increases.
A plethora of tax controls and relief measures has turned the tax formula into an individual equation that varies from homeowner to homeowner.
No sure correlation
Higher tax rates don’t necessarily translate into higher tax bills. For homeowners reassessed in 2010, tax bills bills could be up or down, depending on whether the taxpayer’s assessment dropped to a greater or lesser degree than those of other taxpayers supporting the same school districts and local governments.
For the most part, the school districts that make up the largest share of the tax bill were limited to a 2.7 percent increase in their tax requests, a figure calibrated to the rise in the Consumer Price Index in 2009.
In Wilmette, where voters in April approved a tax increase for Wilmette School District 39, the composite tax rate rose 21.5 percent. Under one scenario, a hypothetical homeowner would see a 10 percent increase in his or her tax bill, to $13,110, on a home valued at about $714,000.
The increase would be lower for a new homeowner who doesn’t fall under the “7 percent” cap, but the tax bill would be higher, $13,961.
Tax rates also rose substantially in the other New Trier Township suburbs: 21.2 percent in Kenilworth, 18.1 percent in Winnetka and 17.7 percent in Glencoe.
Throughout New Trier Township, the median assessment drop on a single-family home was 11 percent, with some homeowners receiving steeper reductions or even increases.
Some Evanston homeowners will see some relief this year, despite a 10.8 percent increase in the tax rate paid by most homeowners.
When properties in Evanston were revalued last year, the median assessment change on a single family residence was a 12 percent decrease. But condominium owners on the whole saw median decreases of just 1 percent, meaning condo owners in Evanston will be picking up a larger share of the overall cost of schools and municipal services.
A wild card
In Evanston, the 2010 reassessment dramatically reshuffled the tax burden, with some neighbors on a block receiving decreases of 25 percent and more, while a few were racheted upward.
Many senior citizens who receive a “senior freeze” exemption will pay more this year due to the rise in tax rates. The break freezes the assessment and not the tax bill itself.
The “7 percent cap” phases in assessment increases through an expanded homeowner exemption that is capped this year at $20,000 in the north and northwest suburbs. The maximum exemption will drop to $16,000 next year and $12,000 the following year before it disappears altogether. Homeowners who’ve lived in their homes 10 or more years, and meet the income requirements, have no limits on the exemptions.
Northfield Township Assessor Patty Damisch said that because of the economy, more homeowners are meeting the income criteria for exemptions such as the senior freeze and the long-term homeowner’s exemption. That means other taxpayers will dole out more.
“What happens is, the people who don’t qualify for those exemptions, they make up the difference,” said Damisch.
The first installment bills, which were due April 1, were figured at 55 percent of last year’s tax bill. Homeowners will make up the difference on their second installment bills.