NORTHLAKE — Lynda Bendik has seen her property taxes rise by $3,000 or $4,000 in the 11 years she’s owned a house in Melrose Park.
“My (wages) haven’t gone up as much as the taxes do,” Bendik said. “My daughter is out of college so we don’t have tuition on top of it. If we did, we’d have to give up the house.”
Bendik joined about 100 people for a workshop at the Grant Park recreation center in Northlake on June 25 to appeal her 2013 taxes (which are payable in 2014).
Staff from the Cook County assessor’s office led attendees in both English and Spanish through through the Real Estate Assessed Evaluation Appeal form.
About three-dozen attendees also filled out a form requesting a lower property assessment based on flood damage in April. Among them was James Rutt of unincorporated Leyden Township.
“I had basement flood damage,” said Rutt, a retired salesman. “About $10,000 in damage. We’re going to see what help we can get.”
State Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-77th), who arranged the workshop, said she regularly hears complaints about high property taxes from her constituents.
“On a daily basis,” Willis said. “It’s one of the top concerns.”
In the Leyden Township town hall, staff in the assessor’s office is assisting crowds of residents with appealing their 2013 taxes. Those residents might be inspired by their 2012 taxes, the first installment of which is due August 1.
“They have gone up,” Deputy Assessor Mary Trzebny said. “Everyone has a larger portion of the levy to pay. The burden shifts to the homeowner again.”
That’s because businesses are paying a smaller amount of property taxes. Some businesses have left and others are appealing for reductions.
Though many residents argue that the lower property values of the last few years should equal lower property taxes, Trzebny said it doesn’t work that way.
“It’s difficult to understand the simple reality that governs our complicated property tax system in Cook County,” Trzebny said. “Unlike sales and income taxes, property taxes are designed to collect a fixed amount of money, whatever the market fluctuations are.”
Those who wish to appeal their assessment can do so on two basis: lack of uniformity (you’re paying more than neighbors with similar homes) and over-valuation (the assessment is too high). Those whose houses were damaged by flooding in April can also appeal.
The Leyden Township assessor’s office, 2501 Mannheim Road, offers free assistance in helping residents to appeal. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays but does not take appointments. Residents need to sign in by 4 p.m. The last day to appeal is July 18.