In Elmhurst, on May 12th,
at the Elmhurst Public Library,
the Supervisor of Assessments
for DuPage County, Craig Dovel,
talked about property taxes,
how to apply for discounts,
and what options and exemptions
are available for seniors.
The place was packed.
Donâ€™t ya wish youâ€™d been there?
Well, you have me, working for you.
And hereâ€™s some of what you missed:
(If you are impatient
and want some quick magic dust to sprinkle,
first understand you are dealing with
governing bodies who get salaries
because they know stuff and work hard.
So you have to know stuff and work hard
to make it a stand-off when you talk with them.
But you can do that, canâ€™t you?)
To begin, here is what happens
before you see your bill.
1.) Â They decide the value of your house
2.) Â They subtract any â€œexemptionsâ€ you get
3.) Â They multiply by the â€œtax rateâ€
4.) Â They send you a bill.
You can stop reading now if you wish.
From here on Iâ€™ll tell you
if you should fight the â€œsystemâ€
and if so, how.
Letâ€™s look at each step to see
where you might save money. Â
There are lots of houses in DuPage,
and what your house is probably worth
is what similar houses near you
have recently sold for.
No two houses are exactly alike.
Thatâ€™s the first â€œcrackâ€ in the system
that might get you a lower tax.
Next is a biggy Â â€œExemptionsâ€ â€“
and they could be deductions for
home improvements, veterans,
disabled persons, senior â€œhomesteadâ€
and Senior Assessment Freeze.
The simple facts:
The tax rate has to feed 378 taxing bodies in DuPage.
They each need money to operate,
and so they add up all the money they need,
and divide it by all the people who can pay.
That number becomes the "tax rate" -
Hey â€“ donâ€™t get angry with me!
Iâ€™m just the messenger here.
Take a minute and come back
when youâ€™re stable again.
There are several soft spots in your tax bill.
But let me head you off from your first rant.
You want to grab the newspaper
and run up to the assessor.
One thousand people
who came into the Assessorâ€™s office
just before you - had one sentence:
â€œMy taxes are too highâ€
Yes, your home is probably worth less
than it used to be worth.
EVERYBODYâ€™s is. And that by itself
wonâ€™t help you.Â Sorry.
Remember that thing about 378 taxing bodies
all needing money?
The dollar amount they get doesnâ€™t go down.Â
But the â€œnumberâ€ used to figure
how much to tax everybody
might change upward
so they can get back up to the dollars they want.
Can you understand that?
Letâ€™s say the owners of 1000 houses,
with each of their houses worth one million dollars,
have to come up with five million dollars to run the city.
Now if the value of all those houses
drops to 500,000 dollars,
those 1000 homeowners
still need to come up with five million dollars
to run the city.
However â€“ if you can prove
your personal homeâ€™s assessed value
(what your home will sell for)
is less than what the assessor says,
you stand a chance of reducing your tax.
How do you prove
your house isnâ€™t worth what they say?
Check for houses that sold, that are like yours.
A good Real Estate agent can help you.
Take six to ten examples of sold homes
with you when you go to
growl at the poor public servant.
NOTHING like your place has sold?
Don't be discouraged - if somebody has
an inground pool and you don't,
deduct some value for a pool
from his selling price to reach your value.
Get it? Add dollars for what you have
and the last sold houseÂ didn't have -
and subtract dollars from his price
for things he has that you don't.
You can do this. I have confidence in you.
But weâ€™re not ready yet.
This is simple â€œmathâ€
but it may not sound like it.
I know you can handle it,
so read carefully:
On your bill, your published "value" is 1/3
of the assessed value of the house.
Now in truth, thatâ€™s just a clever way
to make you feel good â€“
to get you thinking
you got away with something,
because you believe
your home is worth three times
what they say.
And you are right. But it keeps you quiet,
because some of you will believe you fooled them.
NowÂ some bad news:
The market value is based on
the last THREE years, not one year.
NowÂ some good news:
Next year, the declining home values
will finally really kick in.
Now the reallyÂ bad news:
The County still needs
their clump of money
for those 378 pieces of the pie.
Here are the more boring details:
On January 1 of each year,
the list of Taxable Property is prepared.
By November 15th, property is valued
as of last Jan. 1st
Then, the â€œequalization factorâ€
is determined by taking
the amount of money needed -
and dividing it by
the number of people who can pay.
That number is published.
Now you have 30 days to complain.
And somewhere around next March or later,
you get your bill.
Due in two installments to lessen the pain.
Houses hit their price-peak in about 2006 â€“
and then started to drop like a rock.
It made sense
for house prices to plummet
since they got up there
like a rocket
instead of the slow steady climb
theyâ€™ve always travelled throughout history.
History of steady growth will return,
when we shake off the silly rocket-rise.
But itâ€™s those rocket years of 2006, 2007, 2008
that appeared on your 2009 tax bill,
due and payable in 2010.
Finally, in 2011, the dropping prices
should start to appear.
However, remember â€“
if all assessed values are reduced by 10%,
property taxes will be the same!
Let me get off this downer subject
and hand you some very good news:
You personally can â€œappealâ€ your assessment.
Contact your township assessor.
And the sooner the better.
Give him/her documents to prove your point.
That means comparable sold properties,
or maybe you paid for an appraisal.
Make it look like you worked at it.
Bring lots of paperwork.
And be nice. The Township Assessor
may be sort of a little guy
compared to the County Assessor,
but he/she is able to
change your assessment
without you even filing a formal appeal!
Thatâ€™s not your only option,
but thatâ€™s your first step.
Then you can try a formal request
of the County Board of Review,
next the Circuit or Appeal Court
of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, etc.
See why being nice is important?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Now letâ€™s get to work on finding
some exemptions for you.
The beautyÂ of exemptionsÂ is
they reduce YOUR tax,
and the â€œother guyâ€ has to
pick up your deduction.
I assume thatâ€™s a beauty, eh?
The first â€œexemptionâ€ is
a general residential exemption
of â€œ$6,000â€ amounting to
about $340 off your tax bill.
Sort of a cookie they throw out to everybody.
From there on, you have to earn it.
â€œHome Improvementâ€ can earn you
a $1,400 deduction
if you go the full $25,000 maximum,
but spending $25,000
might save $1,400 is what weâ€™re saying.
There are four Veteransâ€™ options,
as there should be â€“ talk with the county.
Disabled persons might be able to
knock off $110 or so.
Thereâ€™s a Senior Homestead optionÂ
of $4,000 that ends up really meaning
a savings of about $220.
But a really good one is
the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze.
Itâ€™s a biggy at about $31,400 off
to save you about $1,800!
I have never understood
why Senior discounts are not regarded
as age discrimination
against younger people.
But itâ€™s an option. Letâ€™s keep it quiet.
Afterall, kids donâ€™t vote.
Your next questions is
how do you apply for these exemptions,
First of all,
you donâ€™t contact me for your exemption.
You can contact me to buy or sell your house.
But you again contact
your Township Assessor
for the General (Residentail) exemption,
assuming you meet the one requirement:
You live in your house.
Also contact the Township Assessor for
your Home Improvement exemption.
Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled
have to contact
the Supervisor of Assessments Office â€“
but Iâ€™ve done this
and you honestly will not believe
how helpful and nice
that phone call will be.
If you are as lucky as I, my call was
unhurried, informative, encouraging,
and the guy I spoke with even filled out
some of the form before
mailing it to me to complete and send back.
Each exemption has some fine print â€“
restrictions â€“ limits â€“
but talk with the folks,
and save yourself some time.
I hope I see you in the chair next to me.
The Elmhurst Library should be
on your list of weekly stops,
because it is a jewel in our community.
And it is fun to get their newsletter.
Sign up if you donâ€™t get it. Lots of things going on,
many current subjects, usually free.
And the surroundings are way-comfortable.
Unless the subject is taxes.
Stay well, travel safely, peace be with you.