Business owners face ‘tiny tax increases’ in Oak Park, River Forest

Oak Park and River Forest High School’s decision to cut its property tax levy by about $10 million has led to “tiny tax increases” for business owners, said Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar.

The school’s recent levy decrease caused total tax levies in Oak Park to fall by 1.8 percent this year, leading the village’s other taxing districts to pick up some — but not all — of the school’s revenue slack by increasing their levies.

“Most homeowners eligible for homeowner and/or senior citizen exemptions will experience small tax reductions, whereas most businesses will experience tiny tax increases,” said ElSaffar in a release on July 7. “These results are due to the first decline in the tax levies of local governments in recent memory, coupled with an increase in assessment appeals.”

In December, District 200’s Board of Education approved a 2013 tax levy of $55,019,413, representing a 15.4 percent decrease from the district’s levy in the previous year.

The board at the time said the decision to reduce the tax levy was made out of concerns that the district’s $130 million fund balance would create “unnecessarily high tax levels, [interfere] with community trust of the District, and would lead to the need for a dangerously high referendum in the future.”

That levy reduction, said ElSaffar, will be felt in both Oak Park, which will be relieved of about $7.4 million in property taxes, and in River Forest, where the remaining $2.6 million will not be collected.

When tax bills went out in February, ElSaffar said that residents shouldn’t be concerned about the initial bottom line.

“The point is, that it’s going to go down, but it’s going to take a while,” he said. “It’s not going to go down on the first bill. It’s going to go down on the second bill.”

Though the through the appeals process for new assessments ended in May, ElSaffar said that local residents will have another opportunity to appeal their 2014 assessed values when the Cook County Board of Review begins accepting appeals from Oak Park. The opening date for that process has yet to be set.

“Notwithstanding the decline in tax levies,” most Oak Parkers will see little change in their property tax bills, due to assessment appeals filed in 2013, ElSaffar said.

“Under our property tax system, whenever one property reduces its taxes through a successful tax appeal, every other property owner has to pay a little more to insure that all the money levied by local governments is collected,” he said.

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