What do Taxes and Reassessments in Oak Park Really Mean?

by Blagica Bottigliero

To local Oak Parkers and those who'd like to move here, I had a BOATLOAD of tax questions. From appealing our taxes to understanding the way in which the 3 year reassessment works. I decided to turn to Lauren Tatar. Lauren is an attorney working specifically in this field. She helped me answer a lot of questions. Here they are for your perusal. She also helped us save about $900 per year on our current property taxes. Thanks, Lauren! 

There is a schedule for appeals based on Township. The full schedule can be found on the Assessor's Office website at:www.cookcountyassessor.com under the "Appeals" tab and then the "appeals and closing deadlines" drop down. River Forest Township is open for appeal until 3/7. Oak Park is open 3/1. Berwyn opens 5/1. Proviso Township opens 7/14. Once an appeal is filed, it normally takes 30 - 60 days after the CLOSING date to get your results. Later in the year, the appeal periods for the Board of Review open, also based on a rotating schedule. Those appeal periods are also open for 30 days but decisions are generally issued 90 - 120 days after the CLOSING date.

Any taxpayer is able to appeal their property taxes each year. The assessment cycle is 3 years -- meaning that every 3 years the assessed value of your home will be examined again and a new and completely different value will be assigned based on property and land values in a given neighborhood. It is most important to appeal in a reassessment year because your assessed value will remain constant (or go down because you appeal) for 3 years. Hence, your savings are for 3 years not just 1 or 2. This does not mean that your taxes will not go up in a 3 year period. It just means that the assessed value will not increase. When local tax rates increase, so do your actual property taxes due and owing.

Most homeowners receive their homeowner's exemption because it is something that is done automatically at the closing. More and more, I am hearing that this was not taken care of at the closing. So, you should check the Assessor's website and see whether you are receiving your exemption. In Oak Park, the h/e can be $800+. You are able to receive the homeowner's exemption retroactively for 3 years. However, the paperwork is extensive and it can take several months to get your check. Easy Tax Appeals offers h/e help for a flat fee of $100 for each year. This is definitely something that can be done on your own but it is confusing and difficult to deal with the Assessor's Office. So, we offer the service more as a convenience than anything else. In addition, you are supposed to receive your exemption automatically each year. However, if you receive the form in the mail, you can and should fill it out and return. Different townships do it differently so you really just need to make sure you are receiving it.

There are no guarantees of a reduction whether you do it yourself or I do it for you. While many think that you are more likely to get a reduction if you do it yourself, that is absolutely NOT true. Similarly, you canget help for free by visiting the Assessor's Office or Village offices. This is perfectly fine to do and you can absolutely get a reduction that way. However, keep in mind that the village wants your tax dollars so making sure you pay the least amount in property taxes may not be in their best interest. I often tell clients to try appealing themselves first. If they are successful, great. If not, they can pay me to do the Board of Review appeal for them and nothing is lost. About 90% of the time, the clients come back and have me prepare the Board of Review appeal on their behalf. 

I put your property information into my database which contains all of the properties in Cook County, including your specific township. The database searches for 5 properties most similar to yours in terms of age, size, location, and constriction type that are assessed at a lower value PER SQUARE FOOT. I then take the average value on a price/sq. ft basis and determine potential savings. I adjust the numbers up or down based on how similar the properties actually are. If there was a recent purchase, it is difficult to get a reduction via an Assessor's Office appeal because the Assessor's numbers are supposed to be based on purchase price information, etc. regardless of how similar the comparable properties are. The Board of Review considers both purchase information as well as comparable property information.

In 2016, my success rate was 95%+ overall and even higher in Oak Park Township. I prepared about 400-500 appeals last year.

You property taxes are calculated based on a formula of  assessed value X local tax rate X state equalizer. By appealing, you are attempting to lower your assessed value which in turn lowers your overall taxes. Your assessed value represents 10% of its value. In other words, you may see on your bill or reassessment notice that your AV is 35,000. That means that the Assessor has valued your home at $350,000.

If you are interested in working with Lauren, her information is: