Illinois property taxes based on public debt make Chicago tenants rethink home buying


COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) – Following an I-Team report on the property tax debt attached to your home and business, some people have said they’ve stopped their research to buy a home.

RELATED: Property Tax Hikes in IL Influenced by Public Debt; how to find debts on your house

“This is what is definitely preventing me from buying right now, which is why I am renting and I’m happy to do it,” said Chicago tenant Drew Schafer.

Schafer said he is now suspending the purchase of a condo due to unpaid property debt.

The I-Team researched the debt associated with Chicagoan Tom Harney’s home. It’s $ 124,000.

“When I look at this number associated with my income tax, I wonder why I stay here and not go to a state that is focused on sustaining its population and growing. I don’t see politicians changing anything. whatever, ”Harney said.

He can see this information because Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has launched a new tool on her website to view public debt attached to homes and businesses.

“The higher the debt, the higher the property taxes,” Pappas told the I-Team. This debt is due to estimated payments on village services, education and pensions.

Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan organization The Civic Federation, said government modernization was needed.

“We need local officials to look at how they deliver government services, not historically how they did it, not along political lines,” he said.

Msall is referring to the 2,200 overlapping government entities in Cook County which he says are ineffective.

Chicago residents were surprised that the treasurer’s figures show that in the Windy City, there is about $ 41,000 in debt attached to every $ 100,000 of property.

“It’s crazy. If I want to own a house, it’s a little overwhelming,” said Keisha Samuels, a Chicago resident.

“It’s a lot, but it’s the trade-off you have to make to live in the city,” Chicago owner Jon Ezentark said.

The I-Team has asked Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle for comment on the debt associated with Cook County landowners.

Pappas said she was “working to fix the county debt” and the “unfunded pensions” she inherited, and was trying to “reduce the county’s share of debt and had not increased it. ‘property tax during his 10 years in power “.

So what can you do about property tax debt? In addition to voting, you should ask candidates what they plan to do to resolve the issue if they win.

Full statement from Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle:

“Over the past 10 years, President Preckwinkle’s administration has worked to address this problem by wisely managing the county’s own debt, including the billions in inherited debt borrowed before he took office, while also tackling responsibly to billions of dollars in unfunded pensions. In short, she has worked to reduce the county’s share of the ‘total district tax debt attributed to Cook County properties’ while not increasing the county’s property tax levy since taking office. In addition, the county has done its part to reduce taxes – burden communities by distributing tax incentives and exemptions equitably to those who need them most. This problem did not arise overnight, and it will not be resolved overnight. It will take a collaborative effort between all units of local government as well as Cook State and County is ready and willing to help take the load. “


We agree with Treasurer Pappas and your report that the Cook County property tax system is broken and places too much of a burden on homeowners. But it’s important that we understand how we got there so that we can find the right solutions and not just point fingers and find someone to blame. I have been the mayor of the village of Riverdale since 2013, and I see every day how complex this problem is and how much real reform will be needed to address it:

We need city leaders to play a proactive role in fixing the problem. At Riverdale, we are making tough decisions to refinance our debt to save taxpayer dollars. We are working to reduce operating expenses and find new grants and other ways to fund much-needed capital projects that we would have borrowed to pay for in the past. And we work every day to find new business partners to expand our local tax base and generate new economic development.

We need legislative action in Springfield to fix the property tax system in the county. We can’t keep picking winners and losers in property tax assessments – communities like ours always lose out in the end.

We need to reform the way we finance our schools. A large portion of our local property tax bill is what it takes to fund our schools. We cannot continue this system.

We have to make tough decisions to reduce the costs of local pensions and consolidate local government units. We need to do more with less.

We need to work together on solutions. Property taxes are considered to be owed to Cook County, not to municipalities like Riverdale. We have over $ 6 million from active businesses that owe the Village outstanding property taxes, forcing us to provide our essential services and asking other businesses and residents to pay for it. We need the Cook County Treasurer and State Attorney to actively pursue these delinquency cases and help us get the funds we are owed, or we will have to pursue legislation to do it ourselves.


We have not issued any new debt since 2011, two years before my administration began. I made it a priority to manage expenses while expanding our local revenue base with alternative fundraising resources. But I only have so many options. We need to have serious discussions and actions at all levels of government to help resolve these fundamental, structural and long-standing issues. These problems exist statewide and appear to be worse in Cook County. We can no longer talk about them. We need action. I am glad that the Treasurer created this tool and is working with your station to shed light on these issues. But my challenge now is: where do we go from here? I hope we can work together to truly help communities like Riverdale and benefit all residents and businesses in Cook County.

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