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VIDEO: Understanding Your Cook County Property Taxes

In this week-long series, Patch takes Cook County property owners on an adventure into the world of taxes and their impact on you.

When your property tax bill arrives in your mailbox, chances are you’ll be squinting to figure out the difference between your property value, your assessed property value and your equalized assessed property value.

After about four months of poking around the Cook County property tax system, one thing is clear here at Patch: It’s confusing, complex, and unwieldy, so much so that there’s not one particular kink in the system that we can point our fingers at to say, “aha, here’s the problem!”

And it’s not just us. Ask elected officials, the county assessor’s spokesperson, the local township assessors, and they all agree it's too complex. As Robert Porter, a former township supervisor, put it: “It’s like a car slamming into a wall at 60 mph.”

So this week we’re offering Patch readers a comprehensive guide to your property taxes, including a video and glossary, to demystify the seemingly arbitrary numbers that show up twice a year in your mailbox. We also uncover some surprising numbers, like how many dollars are lost each month the tax bills are delayed. (Hint: It’s in the millions).

The first thing you need to know is that Cook County is not like any other county in the state of Illinois. Our county uses a system instated in the 1970s with tiered levels of assessment to determine how much your tax bill should be. Everywhere else in the state, pr0perty owners are taxed at a uniform, flat rate.

This tiered method, which affects businesses and residences differently, has wide-reaching consequences for the business landscape in our communities. As part of Patch's "Making Sense of Your Property Tax" series, in the coming days you’ll be able to:

  • tool through the lens of Joel Byron, a business owner who watched his property assessment double in one year;
  • for processing 1.8 million property units in Cook County, and how that can possibly mean you pay more in taxes than your neighbors;
  • Discover why your school district, park district, library board and municipal government officials get together twice a year as ;
  • Find out , and why this matters to your property tax bill.

To get started, watch the animation video that illustrates the property tax system in two minutes, and skim over the for a refresher on your consumer economics vocabulary. When the first installment of your property tax bill is due in a few days on April 1, you’ll be all patched up.

*Clarification: The "ad valorem" title for property tax assessment refers to the entire state of Illinois.

Matthew Hendrickson March 29, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Excellent work guys! Very informative and fun to watch.
Laurie Hellmer April 02, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Great video. Good work.

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