MOUNT GREEENWOOD — Think you are paying too much in property taxes? You could be right.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. will walk homeowners through the appeal process at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.
It's the fourth year O'Shea has hosted the seminar at the school at 3857 W. 111th St., and the event consistently draws a crowd. In fact, lines often stretch down the halls, O'Shea said.
The process to appeal property taxes through the Cook County Board of Review is actually quite simple, said O'Shea, who encouraged those attending to bring a recent property tax bill to the seminar.
The bill will list the property index number or PIN, which is needed to file an appeal. If such a bill is not available, the PIN can also be found by entering the property's address into the Cook County Assessor's Office's website.
Those who file an appeal then need to answer a few related questions and submit the required paperwork. The process can be completed at the seminar or anytime online using the board of review's website.
Historically, 60-70 percent of those who file such an appeal receive some sort of property tax relief, Rogers said Monday. So he encourages everyone throughout Cook County to participate.
Homeowners who appeal through the board of review are also at no risk of seeing their assessments or tax bills increase — except in the rare case that their assessment is somehow deemed fraudulent.
In other words, the board of review has no way of knowing if a homeowner added a garage to their property, finished the basement or put an additional bedroom in the attic, Rogers said.
His board merely looks at the property's description as it is provided by the assessor's office and compares it to recent sales of similar properties nearby. So homeowners stand to benefit if a house on their block sells below market value or falls into foreclosure, Rogers said.
If the market is strong in their area, their assessment will merely stay the same — not increase, he said.
"The good news about this is either they say, 'I am sorry. We can't help you.' Or, 'Yes, we can save you $300 or $700 through comps,'" said O'Shea.
Appeals filed through the assessor's office do run the risk of increasing a homeowner's bill. There are also lawyers who specialize in property tax appeals, but typically such attorneys charge a fee for their services, O'Shea said.
But the board of review's process is free and without risk.
Besides the upcoming seminar, O'Shea also sends letters to all registered homeowners who claim a property tax exemption in the 19th Ward. These letters also explain the board's appeal process and include the necessary forms to file an appeal along with a return envelope addressed to the alderman's office.
Last year, O'Shea's office sent about 14,000 such letters out and received 9,146 completed appeals in return — a response he believes is proof that constituents are eager to file an appeal when it is clearly explained and made simple.
"It reminds me of 'Miracle on 34th Street,'" O'Shea said when the appeal letters begin pouring in at 10400 S. Western Ave.
And the volume of letters and interest in the appeal seminar isn't expected to subside. Appeals filed through the board of review are only valid for a year so homeowners seeking regular relief must file annually.
The level of relief will vary each year, as appeals are based on recent sales data.
O'Shea said walking homeowners through the board's appeal process is easy, and his constituents seem to appreciate the effort made by both his and Rogers' staff.
"I will be in County Fair months after the event and someone will walk up and say, 'Thank you so much, I saved 350 bucks," he said.