Property tax bills anger Cook County homeowners

CHICAGO (CBS) It's sticker shock in the mail. Tax bills went out to Cook County homeowners this week and the big jump in the amount due to many homeowners has some wondering if they can keep their house.

CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov takes a look at how the dramatic jump in property tax bills is affecting people and what you can do about it.

According to the Cook County Clerk's office, tax rates are up for schools, park districts, municipalities and other government bodies. Some of those tax levies have made double-digit increases in tax rates.

The property tax reality was setting in with Markham homeowner Patricia Taylor on Wednesday.

Asked if she can keep her house after receiving an $8,100 property tax bill, Taylor said, "I don't know right now. It's bad right now, it's really bad."

That's because her property tax bill for her three bedroom, one bathroom house shot up from $6,400 last year to $8,100 this year — a whopping 27 percent jump.

Taylor took time on her day off to head to the Cook County Assessor's office to see if anything could be done for herself and her mother.

"What do they expect? I don't live in Beverly Hills, I stay in Markham and this is ridiculous," Taylor said.

Kelley Quinn, spokeswoman for Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, said the office has had thousands of taxpayers like Taylor walk through their halls this week, wondering what was going on with their bills.

Countywide, property tax bills will jump an average of almost 2.7 percent, according to Quinn.

"What we're seeing are a lot of anxious people," Quinn said. "But what we're also seeing is once they leave here, they're satisfied and many of them are happy because they are seeing a tax bill that does go down a bit."

Quinn said many of the people voicing complaints about their tax bills are senior citizens who didn't apply for their senior exemption, which they must do every year, because of a new law.

Those seniors can still get their exemption with help from the county.

But everyone else? They could be out of luck, because taxing districts — from schools to parks — needed the extra revenue and the taxpayers were forced to foot the bill.

"So your local tax rates are going up, even though your assessments are going down, which results ultimately in a tax bill that could be a little bit higher," Quinn said.

People who believe their tax bills are incorrectly assessed can appeal through the Cook County Board of Review, but dates for that are very specific and depend on your township.

You can check the Board of Review website or give the office a call at (312) 603-7550 if you have questions.