After tax bills hit Chicago mailboxes, some taxpayers hit roof

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Homeowners seeking help with property-tax exemptions at the Cook County assessor’s office. | Andy Grimm / Sun-Times

Jines Martinez is going to have to dig deep to pay the tax bill that arrived at his Avondale home this week.

Martinez’s bill shot up to $3,900 from $2,673, and his increase reflects a double-whammy that hit residents in many Chicago neighborhoods after all property in the city was reassessed last year for the first time since 2013, and the city passed a $588 million tax hike.

“I’ve lived in the city my whole life,” said Martinez, 54, who works part-time doing odd jobs. “It’s a beautiful city. But it’s becoming really hard to afford to live here. The water bill went up. Then, they started with the fee for the garbage. I might have to leave.”

Cook County Clerk David Orr estimated that an average Chicago homeowner will see an increased property tax bill of about 12 percent, or about $413.

Though the city tax rate stayed roughly the same — and is lower than the rates in the north and south suburbs of Cook County — the assessed values of real estate in the city also increased more than 9 percent from the last assessment in 2013.

That’s because real estate in many neighborhoods has made a strong comeback from the lows that came after the market plummeted in 2008, said Tom Shaer, spokesman for Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios.

“The good news is the value of your home is rising nicely,” Shaer said. “The bad news is you may be seeing some of that on your property-tax bill.”

It’s too late to challenge the value Berrios’ office has pegged for a piece of property, but taxpayers can still get the benefit of tax exemptions to which they are entitled. The hallway outside the assessor’s office on the third floor of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., sees a steady stream of taxpayers seeking to belatedly tack exemptions onto their assessment. Successful applicants are issued a corrected tax bill the same day, and visits usually last around 20 minutes, Shaer said.

Property owners can appeal their assessments ahead of their 2016 bills on a rolling schedule that will begin later this year. Taxpayers who were unsuccessful appealing their 2015 assessment still can appeal for 2016, Shaer said.

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