Dr. Obama Jekyll to Mr. Joe Walsh Hyde: One man's property tax transformation



Former Congressman Joe Walsh
My property tax bill arrived the other day, transforming me from a liberal Democrat (think Barack Obama) into a raging Tea Party lunatic. Think former Congressman Joe Walsh—minus the odd beliefs about the human reproductive system.

I find myself ranting and raving about Obamacare and the creeping socialism that's turning America into France.

And then I find myself attracted to the Republican-style politics of Mayor Emanuel, cheering him on as he works on firing workers, cutting pensions, selling airports, and closing schools. What the hell, education's overrated anyway.

It's all because my bill rose 20 percent over the installment I paid last July, which seems like only yesterday. Time flies when it comes to tax bills.

To make it worse, my tax bill came a week before my water bill—they really love to pile it on, don’t they?

In my more paranoid moments I think the mayor’s out to get me for all the nasty things I've written about him.

I'm not alone. Why, just the other day I was moaning about the rising cost of taking the Blue Line in from O'Hare, when a CTA worker said, "That's nothing, you should see my property tax bill."

Then he added, "I told you not to vote for Emanuel."

No, wait—that's what I told him.

Here's the bad news: It could get worse!

OK, explanation time . . .

As I've explained before—and will again and again and again—your property tax is basically determined by multiplying the tax rate by the value of your home. If your home's value falls, you expect to pay less. So hip hip hurrah for the housing meltdown!

However, home value is only part of the equation. The other part has to do with how much the city and county spend. If they spend more, you will pay more, even if your home's value is falling.

How can that happen? Simple, they just raise the tax rate. Duh, people.

Next August's tax bill is the first one that will reflect the latest reassessment, so look for those tax rates to go up.

Which brings us to another variable: Your property is value relative to everyone else's. If your property value fell more than other property in the city, your taxes will stay roughly the same. On the other hand, if your property went up in value or even if just fell less than everyone else's . . .


All things being equal, you'd rather live in a town where property values are rising and tax rates are falling because it means the overall economy is strong—new housing’s being constructed, people are buying things, and so on.

Though you're not really likely to be thinking about these things when the tax bill comes.

Bottom line: expect more wailing from taxpayers come the summer. Good thing for the mayor it's almost two years before his next election—he's always been a lucky guy, that mayor.

For the moment, I'm relatively calm. Having paid my latest bill, I’ve transcended back to my blissful Obama-like state. But come the summer, my inner Joe Walsh will return—again!

Comments (18)

Showing 1-18 of 18

Add a comment

Add a comment