Illinois property taxes based on government debt make Chicago renters rethinking buying a house


COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) — Following an I-Team report about the property tax debt attached to your home and business, some people said they stopped their search to buy a home.

RELATED: IL property tax hikes influenced by government debt; how to look up debt on your home

“Definitely preventing me from buying right now that’s why I’m renting and happy to do so,” said Chicago renter Drew Schafer.

Schafer said he’s now holding off on buying a condo because of outstanding debt attached to properties.

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

“When I look at that number coupled with my income tax, I ask myself why am I staying here and not going to a state that’s focused on keeping its people and growing. I don’t see politicians changing anything,” said Harney.

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

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

Laurence Msall, President of the nonpartisan The Civic Federation, said government modernization is needed.

“We need local officials to look at how they deliver government services, not historically how they’ve done it, not according to political boundaries,” he said.

Msall is referring to the 2,200 overlapping government entities in Cook County, which he said are inefficient.
Chicago residents were surprised that the treasurer’s numbers show that in the Windy City, there’s about $41,000 of debt attached to every $100,000 in property.

“That’s crazy. If I want to own a home, it kind of discourages,” said Chicago resident Keisha Samuels.

“It’s a lot but it’s the tradeoff you have to live in the city,” said Chicago homeowner Jon Ezenstark.

The I-Team asked Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle for a comment on the debt associated with property owners in Cook County.

Preckwinkle said she’s worked to address the county’s own debt and “unfunded pensions” that she inherited, and is trying to reduce the county’s portion of the debt and has not increased the property tax levy in her 10 years in office.

So what can you do about the property tax debt? Besides voting you should ask candidates specifically what they plan on doing about the problem if they win.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s Full Statement:

“Over the past 10 years, President Preckwinkle’s administration has worked to address this very issue by judiciously managing the County’s own debt including the billions in legacy debt borrowed before she took office while also responsibly addressing billions of dollars in unfunded pensions. In short, she has been working to reduce the County’s portion of the ‘Total Taxing District Debt Attributed to Properties in Cook County’ all while not increasing the County’s property tax levy since taking office. Additionally, the county has been doing its part to provide relief to tax-burden communities by equitably distributing tax incentives and exemptions to those who need it most. This problem did not occur overnight, and it will not be solved overnight. It will take a collaborative effort between all units of local government along with the State and Cook County is ready and willing to help take up the charge.”

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