No Need to Panic

(NOTE: Illinois-specific info.) Oak Parkers are getting their property tax assessments, and they’re seeing their home value has typically gone up a lot (I’m seeing around 47% on various community boards).

I’m hearing a lot of panic, where people are thinking that that means they’re going to owe several thousand more than usual in property taxes.

That’s not correct, so I’m going to try to explain this here, hoping it helps.

You don’t necessarily need to panic over this, or assume you’ll see a several thousand dollar increase in property taxes.



• if your house went up about the same as everyone else’s (let’s say everyone in Oak Park went up about 50%), the amount you pay in taxes won’t change (because your taxes are ‘a piece of the pie’ — the overall pie got bigger, your piece is the same proportion)

• if your house went up less than most people’s, your taxes will drop

• if your house went up more than most people’s, your taxes will rise

• you may be thinking now — well, how do I know how my house did compared to others?, and I think basically, we don’t have that information until the actual property tax bills get distributed next. But you can get a rough idea from this kind of community conversation — if everyone is talking about roughly the same percentage as yours, that gives you some information as to what’s likely.

• my conversation with my husband yesterday when he opened the letter: Him: “We went up a lot!” Me: “I’m seeing about a 47% increase reported in the various community FB groups.” Him: “Hm, that’s about what ours is, so probably our taxes aren’t going up more than the standard annual 3% – 3.5%. We’ll see.”)

• that annual 3% – 3.5% is based on what the various taxing bodies do; they can in theory go up to 5% without asking the community for a special assessment via referendum, but generally don’t. With a few notable exceptions. (I’m now avoiding going into a lot more detail, because after 4 years serving on library board and 2 years on D200 school board, I can get kind of into the weeds on this kind of thing, and I can tell this post is already getting quite long. 🙂 )


Another way to think about this is that your property taxes are affected by two sliders:

1) your property value; if it goes up in proportion to the rest of the community, that won’t affect your taxes, but if you, say, do a big addition that doubles your square footage (or maybe add a second story on the garage for a granny flat), that likely will increase your home value more than your neighbors’, and will increase your taxes (you’ll hopefully recoup that money when you sell, but it’s hard to predict what the market will do, and if you’re a new homeowner, that selling point’s going to seem very far away)

2) the taxing bodies (D97, D200, Village, Park District, Library, Township), who usually are trying to match the rate of inflation, but have some ability to either tax less, or tax more

NOTE: The last few years have been weird in part because inflation went so high, due to pandemic supply shortages, etc. — so taxing bodies weren’t even trying to match it, because they knew people were being hit hard; that generally meant cutting back on services, or holding off on planned projects, etc. At least inflation seems to be improving. Currently: “US Inflation Rate is at 4.98%, compared to 6.04% last month and 8.54% last year. This is higher than the long term average of 3.28%.”

I hope this helps clarify.



• let’s assume for the moment that most homes went up about 50% in value; that means that when you’re ready to sell, your home value has gone up that much, which may be good for you personally, especially if you were getting ready to sell soon

• it also means that Oak Park has become more desirable to buyers, and therefore a more expensive community to buy into overall; that’s not something anyone has a lot of control over, because it’s about market rates, but if you’re thinking about gentrification, yes, that’s one way of thinking about this; it’s likely now harder for renters to afford to buy a starter home in Oak Park

• whenever the governing boards do something to make Oak Park a more pleasant place to live, they’re also likely pricing some people out. That’s a tough equation, and I don’t know what the solution is.

• most people, I think, want the schools to get better, want the parks to offer more services, want the infrastructure of roads and sewers in better repair, want police and fire to respond appropriately and efficiently, want senior services to be extensive and well-supported

• property taxes pay for much of what you love about your community

• but as you make a location more attractive and desirable — well, more people hear about it and desire to live there, and so property values (and housing prices) go up.

• it’s on my to-do list to do more reading about gentrification, because I think people must have come up with some ways to at least mitigate those effects. Maybe? Book recs welcome.

• these market forces make it much harder to do things like buy a modest home, live in it 20-30 years, and then pass it on to one of your kids (instead of selling at a much higher price, letting you retire somewhere more affordable), which I think was much more the norm in Oak Park if you go back 5-6 decades; I don’t know how feasible that’s going to be for most people

• it’s also a problem if people come here when they have school-age kids, and leave when their kids are done with school, because the cost of educating 2+ kids here currently in the public schools is more than what people are typically paying in property tax. So if we want Oak Park to be long-term financially sustainable, we need younger people to move to town before they have kids, we need people who may choose not to have kids at all, and we need people to be able to afford to stay here for at least a decade or so after their kids are out of the schools.

• that means building a vibrant community, with more high-density apartments near transit for the younger (and non-child-rearing) folks, with more social activities (theatre, arts scene, etc — did you hear we have a new comedy club coming in on Lake? exciting!) to attract them and keep them. If you want your property taxes to stay low, one of the best things you can do is help to attract more people who aren’t currently raising kids.


That’s my understanding; if I’ve gotten any of this wrong, please correct me. Thanks!

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