The threat of local government seizing and auctioning off one’s property once motivated Illinoisans to promptly pay their real estate taxes. Or else.
But in a growing number of Cook County suburbs and Chicago neighborhoods suffering under high property tax bills, that threat is now officially empty.
More than 163,000 Cook County property taxpayers didn’t pay their bills this year, according to an analysis of Cook County Treasurer records by West Cook News. That’s about 9 percent of the county’s 1.88 million total.
But only 7 percent of those delinquent properties -- 11,780 -- were able to attract a buyer at the county auction, the analysis showed.
The remaining 150,000 properties — in arrears on property taxes in perpetuity because their bills are so high as to deem them unwanted — represent yet another warning of sorts for Cook County politicians who believe they can tax and spend with impunity.
There exists a breaking point in which property owners realize it is no longer worth it to continue paying their bills, that there is no longer a downside to tax delinquency. In many Cook County communities, it has already been reached.
Nine bids on 1,070 properties offered
In south suburban Ford Heights, Cook County Treasurer records show 47 percent of property owners didn’t pay their property taxes in 2018 -- 1,070 out of 2,274.
This includes most owners of 13 of the 20 supposedly highest-valued properties in town.
Nine of the 1,070 attracted a buyer at auction. The market says the rest of them are, effectively, worthless or even worse.
That’s not to their owners, however, who can continue to occupy them until the market improves, resting assured that their local taxing districts don’t want the properties, either.
In 12 Cook County communities, including Ford Heights, more than 20 percent of property owners didn’t pay their 2018 tax bills. All are in the south suburbs. They are Harvey (45 percent), Robbins (37 percent), Dixmoor (36 percent), Riverdale (34 percent), Phoenix (33 percent), Chicago Heights (27 percent), Sauk Village (25 percent), Markham (23 percent), Dolton (22 percent), Burnham (21 percent) and Calumet Park (20 percent).
Another 21 Cook County suburban communities have property tax delinquency rates of more than 10 percent; 17 are in the south suburbs. They are Hazel Crest (19 percent), Calumet City (19 percent), South Chicago Heights (18 percent), Park Forest (18 percent), Lynwood (17 percent), Posen (14 percent), Steger (13 percent), Country Club Hills (13 percent), Blue Island (12 percent), Richton Park (12 percent), Thornton (12 percent), Summit (10 percent), Matteson (10 percent), South Holland (10 percent), Olympia Fields (10 percent), Lansing (10 percent) and Glenwood (10 percent).
All told, the West Cook region represents 10.4 percent of Cook County properties and 29 percent of 2018’s delinquent tax bills, totaling 47,013.
The City of Chicago represents 48 percent of Cook County and 54 percent of delinquent tax bills, or 87,962.
Cook County Delinquent Property Taxes
|Region||Total # Properties||% of Cook||Total '18 Delinquent||% of Cook||% Delinquent|
|City of Chicago||892,155||47.5%||87,962||54.0%||9.9%|
Delinquent Cook County Property Sold at Auction in 2018
|Region||% Delinquent||# sold at auction||% delinquent sold at auction||# Dormant properties|
|City of Chicago||9.9%||6,683||7.6%||81,279|
2018 West Cook County Delinquent Property Taxes
|Community||Total # Properties||Total '18 delinquent||% Delinquent||# sold at auction||% delinquent sold at auction|
|La Grange Highlands||1,088||46||4.2%||3||6.5%|
|Indian Head Park||2,274||92||4.0%||12||13.0%|
|La Grange Park||4,709||151||3.2%||13||8.6%|