A letter to the editor in this morning's Northwest Herald calls attention to the outrageous level of property taxes in McHenry County and Woodstock. When you receive your tax bill, look at it carefully. Analyze it.
The author of the letter stated that his wife and he moved from Arlington Heights and downsized to a smaller three-bedroom home. He wrote that last year's property taxes were $5,099. Now, right away, that's enough to scare a lot of people away, but that amount was $2,000 less than they had been paying on their large home in Lake County.
But this year's taxes? Their property taxes increased from $5,099 to $7,259, which is an increase of 42.3%! How could property taxes go up 42% in one year?
When you receive your assessment and tax bill, set up a spreadsheet. List the many different entities that get a cut of your taxes. Dig out last year's tax bill and the one for the year before that. Then create a "picture" of your taxes, comparing the numbers side-by-side.
If your blood pressure hasn't gone through the roof by that time, then calculate the percentage of increase from one year to the next. While the dollar amount of the increase is significant, the real story will be in the percent by which your taxes increased.
Make a telephone call to the Township (Dorr Township is 815.338.0125) in which you live and ask what the procedure is to challenge your assessment and the corresponding property taxes.
The combination of a recession and last year's August flooding have resulted in a decline in property values. Listen carefully to the words of the assessors. Are they telling you that your property value hasn't gone down?
When there is a housing glut and people cannot sell their homes without reducing the price several times and forfeiting equity that had built up, then they might decide not to sell. So that "non-sale" does not show up in calculations to determine lower valuations. But what is the Fair Market Value of the house? FMV is the price at which a willing buyer meets a willing seller. That's what Fair Market Value is. If you can't sell your home at $300,000 or $280,000 or $240,000 because there is no willing buyer, then the FMV is lower.
If you believe your property is assessed too high, then get in line and fight it. Do your homework. Just walking in and asking for a lower assessed valuation won't work. You are going to have to "sell" the Assessor. So do your homework. Get your "sales talk" ready. But don't delay on making the phone call, because you have limited amount of time to challenge the assessment.
If you live in Dorr Township, go to http://www.dorrtownship.com/Assessor/infoappeal.html and read the brief information carefully. There you'll read that a formal appeal must be made to the (McHenry) County Board of Review.
For information on County assessments, you can start with http://co.mchenry.il.us/common/CountyDpt/Assess/
Most importantly, get your pad and pencil and telephone 815.334.4290 Find out when the short time period (only 30 days for the entire county?) is within which you can appeal your property assessment. Put the date on your calendar. Learn what your rights are.
Some wise person said, "If you don't know your rights, you don't have any." Well, you have them, so learn them.
© 2008 GUS PHILPOTT