Tuesday, July 13


New law provides property tax relief for families and additional relief for seniors

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[JULY 13, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 2112 on Monday, representing a clear victory for homeowners struggling with skyrocketing property taxes. The statewide property tax relief package increases several key property tax exemptions, including the statewide homeowner exemption, the exemption for home improvements and the senior citizen assessment freeze.

"For most people, the biggest investment they'll ever make is their home. It's the place they live, the place they raise their family," Gov. Blagojevich said. "When you think about owning your home, you save for a down payment, you figure out how you're going to meet your mortgage costs, and you think about ways you can afford to improve your home. But, the thing you didn't bargain for was that you do all of those things, and then the time comes when you can no longer afford your own home because the property taxes are way too high. That's the situation facing hundreds of thousands of people across Illinois."

The legislation signed by the governor addresses the never-ending cycle of skyrocketing tax assessments for families and seniors. SB 2112:

  • Assists property owners in one of two ways:

1. Caps assessments at 7 percent per year, once adopted through county ordinance. The total "alternative" exemption allowed would not exceed $20,000. County boards in all Illinois counties will have six months to enact the "alternative" exemption that will limit assessment increases to 7 percent per year.

2. Increases the statewide homeowner exemption amount to $5,000 from the current $4,500 in Cook County and $3,500 in all other Illinois counties. All property owners in Illinois will be able to claim the increased exemption on their 2004 tax bills, regardless of how much their property value has increased.

  • Assists seniors by increasing their additional homeowner exemption to $3,000. Previously, the senior exemption was $2,500 above the general exemption level in Cook County and $2,000 above the general exemption in the rest of Illinois' counties.

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  • Increases the income level for seniors to be eligible for an assessment freeze on their property. That income level is currently $40,000; this bill increases it to $45,000.
  • Increases the exemption for home improvements from $45,000 to $75,000.

"There are people all across Illinois facing skyrocketing property tax bills. They want to stay in their homes. They have to be able to afford to do so," the governor said. "This bill helps hold the line on property taxes, and maybe just as important, it gives homeowners some peace of mind."

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan championed SB 2112. Cook County experienced recent dramatic assessment increases, triggered by Chicago's strong residential real estate market. In fact, Chicago homeowners saw a median increase of 32 percent on their 2003 reassessments.

"Today we have a great deal to celebrate, as the signing of this bill fulfills our initial goal of providing Illinois homeowners and their families with immediate property tax relief. On behalf of homeowners, I thank the legislature for their support and thank Governor Blagojevich for approving this critical piece of legislation," said Houlihan. "We now need to build on this momentum and extend our commitment to the total restructuring of the Illinois tax system to make it more reasonable, fair and equitable to all taxpayers."

[News release from the governor's office]

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