Homeowners and lawmakers hoping for some tax relief did not find it in 2021. For the fourth straight year, Illinois ranked as the state with the second-highest property taxes in the United States, trailing only New Jersey.
The average Illinois homeowner paid $4,942 in property taxes on a median-valued home of $217,500, which is twice the national average. Why do property taxes remain so high in the state?
Pension debt may be to blame
Cook County has seen property tax rates increase at three times the rate of inflation from 2000 to 2020. These increases have brought in $94 million in revenue, of which the county used $42.5 million to pay down the nearly $45 billion debt in Chicago’s eight pension funds. Across the state, pension debt totals $63 billion, which has also fueled property tax increases. State lawmakers have been calling for reform since 2013, but achieving it would require a constitutional amendment.
How to lower Illinois property taxes
The primary determinant of how much homeowners pay in property taxes in Illinois is the value of their home, as determined by their local assessor. Homeowners can contest this value by appealing to their local board of review. The board requires documentation to support a lower value, such as appraisal records or records of sales of similar homes.
With Illinois property taxes outstripping neighboring states, the high rates are being blamed for Illinois’ declining population. Will lawmakers enact change to address the issue, or will Illinois retain its second-place position for the fifth straight year?