By Bob Uphues
Homeowners who are 65 and older will benefit from new laws that as of Jan. 1 increase senior property tax exemptions and increases the household income limit for seniors wanting qualify for the senior property assessment freeze.
Senior citizens have until Feb. 7 to complete applications for the senior homeowners' exemption and senior freeze.
Anyone in Cook County who owns and lives in a single-family home is eligible for a homeowners' exemption, but senior citizens who own and live in their homes qualify for an additional exemption on top of that.
In 2018, the standard homeowners' exemption will be calculated by multiplying the local tax rate by $10,000. In the past the exemption was determined by multiplying the tax rate by $7,000. The amount resulting from the calculation is subtracted from the total equalized assessed value of your property, giving you a break on your property taxes.
Senior citizens qualify for an additional exemption, multiplying the tax rate by $8,000 – up from $5,000 previously. As a result, the amount deducted from the equalized assessed value (EAV) of a senior citizen's property in 2018 is the tax rate multiplied by $18,000.
Exactly what that's going to mean in terms of savings for individual homeowners isn't clear yet. Last year, much of the Landmark's coverage area, including Riverside, Proviso and Lyons townships, were reassessed during the county's triennial reassessment.
Median assessed values in Riverside Township increased by about 18.5 percent as a result of that reassessment, while in Lyons Township median assessed values increased by about 22.5 percent. Proviso Township median assessed values for single family home jumped almost 20 percent as a result the reassessment.
The higher assessments will drive down tax rates in those townships, said Riverside Township Assessor Fran Sitkiewicz.
"So we don't know yet how that will affect the amount of the exemptions,' Sitkiewicz said. "I think for Riverside Township most people will see a benefit. I'm not sure people will save thousands, but they'll see a little bit of a boost in exemptions."
Sitkiewicz said township assessors will get preliminary 2018 tax rates in the spring, but they won't be finalized until right before the second installment tax bills go out later this summer.
In addition to the senior homeowners' exemption, those age 65 and older who have lived in their homes since Jan. 1, 2016 may also qualify for the senior tax freeze, which freezes the assessment value; the freeze can be renewed annually.
Starting in 2018 you can qualify for the senior freeze if the combined income of all members of the household is less than $65,000. In the past, combined household income was capped at $55,000.
Many senior citizens, including those who have qualified for the senior exemption and freeze in the past, have already received applications for 2018 in the mail. If you turned 65 in 2017, you probably have not received an application in the mail.
Seniors who haven't received applications in the mail should contact their township assessors or obtain them from the website of the Cook County Assessor at www.cookcountyassessor.com.
Exemptions must be renewed every year. Township assessors' offices have application forms and can assist seniors in filling them out. Riverside Township alone assisted more than 200 senior citizens with questions and issues related to homeowners' exemptions, Sitkiewicz said. Her office accepts walk-ins and schedules appointments.
Riverside Township Assessor Fran Sitkiewicz can be reached at 708-447-7700; Lyons Township Assessor Barbara Weyrick can be reached at 708-482-8300, option 1. Proviso Township Assessor Steven Zawaski can be reached at 708-449-4304.