Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

The owner of a $425,000 home, the median-priced residence in Evanston, will likely pay about $450 more in property taxes in 2023 than they did in 2022, representing an increase of a little more than 4%, according to an Evanston RoundTable analysis of local tax levies for 2023 that have just been made final.

The majority of local property taxes go to schools, and the biggest tax increases for 2023 will be for Evanston/Skokie School District 65, which is seeking a 5.98% increase in its levy, while Evanston Township High School is requesting a 5.5% increase.

The news comes just after Cook County residents had their second installment of the 2022 property tax bill due on Dec. 30. Normally, that second installment is due in the late summer or early fall, but bills were sent out several months late in 2022.

The deadline for the first installment of payments due in 2023 has also been delayed, the county treasurer recently announced, pushing back the normal March 1 deadline to April 3, 2023.

But taxes still march on and all the levies from the various Evanston taxing bodies for the upcoming year were due Dec. 31. As a public service, the RoundTable rounded up those levies and calculated all the costs to give readers a sense of what to expect, which you can see in the spreadsheet below.

Properties in Evanston were also reassessed in 2022 for the first time since 2019, and, if your home or property value goes up by more than the average property in that new assessment, the increase will be applied to the second installment of your bill in 2023. The first installment is always due in the first half of the year, and is equal to 55% of what you paid in the previous cycle.

However, property assessments are only part of the equation.

“It’s not just about changes to your assessment, it’s also about changes to the tax levy. Both of those factor into changes in the tax rates,” said Scott Smith, chief communications officer for the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

Smith said the overall picture is unclear while the assessor’s office and the Board of Review wrap up appeals processes—with the second installment reflecting those numbers.

Levying bodies for Evanston

In Cook County, Evanston’s home base, the majority of property taxes go toward funding local school districts. Evanston is no exception. But there are also 11 other taxing districts outside the two school districts, which collect some or all of their money via property taxes.

Our calculations take into account 11 tax districts in Evanston:

  • Cook County
  • City of Evanston
  • Evanston Public Library
  • Consolidated elections
  • Evanston General Assistance fund
  • Evanston/Skokie School District 65
  • Evanston Township High School District 202
  • Cook County Forest Preserve
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
  • Oakton Community College
  • North Shore Mosquito Abatement District

But if you live within the boundaries of either or both of Evanston’s two park districts, the increase in your bill for 2023 will be even higher.

  • Ridgeville Park District in south Evanston is bordered by Chicago Avenue to the east, Greenleaf Street to the north, the North Shore Channel to the west and Howard Street to the south. Ridgeville is seeking the maximum 5% increase in its property tax collection, which fully fuels its annual budget of more than $700,000. Residents within the district boundaries typically contribute a few hundred dollars in taxes per year. “Obviously, the cost of goods and services all increased, probably more than 5%, and in order to hire quality part-time and full-time people, we need to pay a competitive wage, and we’re behind in that regard,” Ridgeville Director Brian Rosinski said. “We have no debt service, we borrowed money from nobody … so we think we give a pretty good deal to the taxpayers with the parks and the services that we offer.”
  • Lighthouse Park District in Northeast Evanston in even smaller, with an annual budget of less than $150,000, and it has requested a 4.9% increase in its collection for 2023. You can see the boundaries of that park district in the map on the right.

What drives the increases?

Local and state laws allow most of these taxing bodies to request an annual increase in their collection of property taxes equal to the previous year’s inflation rate or 5%, whichever is lower. Normally, the inflation rate hovers around 2% or so.

But inflation exceeded 7% in 2022, paving the way for many districts to request unprecedented property tax increases.

Plus, school districts are allowed to ask for more than 5% to cover the new properties that just entered the tax rolls in the last calendar year.

You also might notice in the spreadsheet above that the Cook County Forest Preserve has the highest percentage increase for 2023, which is the result of a voter referendum in November that approved a tax hike to support the preserve.

Taxpayers in the county will have to pay about $1.50 more per month on average toward the forest preserves.

Most taxes fall into one of three categories – income tax, property tax or sales tax – and Americans typically pay around 30% of their overall income in taxes each year, though the percentage varies by jurisdiction and income level. Yet, as is obvious to all who own homes, a big chunk of that tax bill is due to property taxes. 

Finally, another factor for homeowners to keep in mind this year is the potential for increases in the cost of utilities like energy and natural gas. Peoples Gas, which offers heating in Chicago, recently announced a hike in its delivery rates, for example.

Again, why the increase?

Illinois cities often need a property tax hike more desperately than school districts, according to Sheila Weinberg, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the national public finance watchdog group, Truth in Accounting.

RoundTable’s graphic breakdown of a 2023 property tax bill for a median home in Evanston. Graphic by Jasper Davidoff

“Most of the school districts I’ve looked at seem to be in a fine financial state, and for some reason, just historically, even if they don’t need the money, they raise the levy as high they are legally able to,” Weinberg said. “On the North Shore, I looked at a few of those districts, and they actually have lots of extra money, where the cities have very high unfunded pension plans.”

But, unlike the school districts and other taxing bodies, the City of Evanston operates under home rule, which means that it never has a cap on its property tax increases. 

As a result, the city can keep its property tax rates flat in one year, and then make up for that decision with a relatively large increase in the next year, if it passes a vote by the elected officials.

But a school district is more limited. It can only levy for an increase equal to inflation or a maximum of 5% if inflation exceeds that number. 

That dynamic essentially means that school districts have a strong incentive to levy the maximum increase allowed each year.

Otherwise, levying below the maximum would set a district’s finances back for years because the baseline budget for the following year becomes lower than what it would have been. 

“Think of it as a cost and a benefit,” Crane said. “The cost is pissing everybody off. The benefit is not having to cut your toes off. And the school districts don’t want to cut their toes off, while Evanston’s toes aren’t threatened at all. Evanston, by not raising to a full 5%, is only losing money this year, and it could make up for all the lost revenue by having an even bigger increase next year. The school district doesn’t have that choice. If it doesn’t get to 110 this year, it can’t get to 121 next year.” 

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

Leave a comment

The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *