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South suburban homeowners see their property taxes go north

Sun-Times File Photo. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Sun-Times File Photo. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

South suburban homeowners in Cook County have been socked with higher property tax increases than their north suburban or city neighbors.

Average tax bills for single-family homes in the south suburbs were $247.39 higher in 2016 than in 2017 — an increase of about 5 percent — while those in the north suburbs went up around $213, or 3 percent, during that period, according to the Cook County clerk.

And homeowners in the city saw their bills increase by nearly $110, or 3 percent.

On average, the 2017 property tax bill for a home with a market value of $200,000 would be $3,579 in Chicago, $4,593 in the north suburbs and $5,867 for a south suburban home.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said the amount that municipalities asked for in property taxes increased by 16 percent over the last three years, and it’s a “trend that I’m concerned about.”

“If you want to look to the future, this is something we as a society — at the federal, state and county levels — could do something about,” Orr said.

The varying rates may be explained by inequity and “historic racial issues,” Orr said.

The wealthier areas, which have more industry and more commercial properties to levy taxes on, don’t have to ask for more in property taxes. But lower income areas, which may have fewer commercial spaces or other industries, ask for more in property taxes because they still need to govern, Orr said.

Cook County Clerk David Orr objects to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of an automatic voter registration bill last year. A new bill now is awaiting the governor’s signature. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

With increases in the levies of the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools contributing to an overall increase in taxes billed, Chicago taxpayers can expect a 1.7 percent increase in their composite tax rate, though it will still hover around 7 percent.

Homeowners in Ford Heights, Park Forest and Riverdale have the highest average tax rates in the county at roughly 34, 34 and 29 percent, respectively. Hinsdale, Burr Ridge and Barrington have the lowest at roughly 7 percent.

The total of all property taxes billed for taxing districts in Cook County was a record breaking $14.4 billion. That number represents a 5 percent increase over the previous year, similar to increases in tax revenue for 2016 and 2015. In prior years, the total taxes billed increased approximately 1-2 percent annually.

Orr said to reduce the disparity and reliance on property taxes, the state could institute a progressive income tax — the move would produce more revenue without affecting 80 to 90 percent of the public, he said.

But that’s far from a slam-dunk politically.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger J.B. Pritzker are on opposite sides of the issue. The Republican governor is adamantly opposed to a graduated income tax, while his Democratic rival is campaigning in support of one.

Taxing retirement income could also help generate a portion of revenue for the state, Orr said.

“If we can reduce our reliance on property taxes, that would mean better equity for our schools and for people in the state,” Orr said. “This isn’t a matter of good people versus bad people, but historic racial issues and inequities that government should be trying to address.”