Property Tax

September, 2, 2021

Property Taxes - Information and FAQ

An important source of revenue for the Village - but not the only source - is property tax. By now, residents should have received the second installment of their property tax bill for the 2020 year. Properties in Cook County are reassessed every three years. The second installment tax bill reflects any changes to an assessment during the Cook County 2020 Triennial Reassessment. The River Forest Township Assessor can assist residents with any missing or incorrect exemptions and act as a resident’s advocate with the Cook County Assessor’s Office.  Contact the River Forest Township Assessor at 708-366-2787 or via email at Assessor@RiverForestTownship.org for more information. Property owners should review their tax bills to ensure that all exemptions they are entitled to were received. 

Where do your Property Tax Dollars Go?

While no one enjoys cutting the check to the Cook County Treasurer’s office, it is important to understand that the Village portion of the property tax bill is roughly 11.9%. The other roughly 88% of the property tax bill is made up of other taxing bodies or units of government that levy residents and businesses. For example, 72% of our property tax bill is made of D90, D200, and Triton College. The Village utilizes the 11.9% that is collected in property taxes from residents and businesses to fund Village services that residents and businesses expect such as public safety, snow removal from Village streets and alleys, and more. It is also important to understand what the Village does to ensure that this community remains a desirable place for people to live and work. 

How Does River Forest’s Tax Rate Compare to Neighboring Communities?

Compared to its neighbors, River Forest has a low overall tax rate. For instance, in 2020, a home assessed at $500,000 in River Forest will have an overall tax bill that will be lower than a comparable home assessed at $500,000 in Oak Park, Elmwood Park, Forest Park, or Riverside. Further, River Forest’s tax rate is lower this year than last.

Municipality

2020 Average Composite Tax Rate

2019 Average Composite Tax Rate

% Change

River Forest

9.429%

10.646%

-11.43%

Chicago

6.911%

6.890%

+0.3%

Oak Park

11.334%

13.161%

-13.88%

Elmwood Park

11.268%

10.001%

+12.67%

Forest Park

10.294%

12.072%

-14.73%

Riverside

11.046%

12.069%

-8.48%

What is a Property Tax Rate and How Does it Impact my Bill?

In calculating property taxes for an individual property, the property tax rate is the amount determined by local taxing districts and multiplied by the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of property. To calculate the EAV of property the Cook County Assessor first determines the fair market value of the property. The assessed value for residential homes in Cook County is 10% of the fair market value. For commercial properties, it is 25% of the fair market value. Cook County is assessed at a lower percentage of fair market value than all other counties in the state. Therefore, a State Equalization Factor/Multiplier is applied to the assessed value. This creates the EAV for the property. The State Equalization Factor saw a significant increase this year which, while lowering the tax rate, also had a negative effect on the value of all exemptions. To learn more about these terms and how a residential tax bill is calculated, click here.  Residents can also visit the Cook County Property Tax Portal to learn more.

The graphic below demonstrates how property tax is calculated. Tax rates for each taxing body or district are calculated by taking that district's levy and dividing it by the taxable value within the boundaries of that district. The composite tax rate is then comprised of each taxing body’s rates added together. 



What is Included in the Overall River Forest Tax Rate?

The River Forest 2020 composite tax rate is 9.429 and includes all of the tax rates of the individual taxing bodies added together. This includes District 90, District 200, the Village, the Library, the Township, Cook County, the Forest Preserve, and more. River Forest’s property tax rate is complemented by its wonderful community assets such as strong public safety, walkable neighborhoods, award-winning schools, beautiful parks, a historic public library, and many convenient transportation options.  These strengths, coupled with a lower property tax rate, are what creates great value for the residents of River Forest.

How Much of My Property Tax Bill Goes to the Village of River Forest?

Of the property taxes each property owner pays, the Village makes up only a small portion, 11.9%. Other taxing bodies make up the remaining portion, as shown in the chart below. 


Why am I Paying a Different Amount This Year Than Last Year? 

All River Forest properties were reassessed in 2020 and given a new value by the Cook County Assessor, Fritz Kaegi.  The River Forest 2020 Valuation Reports are available on the Cook County Assessor’s website.   River Forest residents will recall that the Village Board of Trustees approved a Property Tax Levy with a 0% property tax increase to ease the challenges residents may have experienced due to the pandemic. A history of strong, responsible financial policies allowed the Village to provide this temporary relief without reducing service to the community. The Village’s portion of the River Forest property tax rate dropped from 1.270 to 1.124 (an 11.5% decrease) in 2020.

 In addition, a COVID-19 adjustment was applied by Cook County to the entire county year. The COVID-19 adjustment was established by the Cook County Assessor to reduce the tax burden borne by taxpayers as a result of the pandemic and its economic effect. The extent of the adjustment was dependent upon the usage of the property and locations within Cook County. For more information, click here

Increases in property tax bills are due to changes in how properties are valued for tax purposes. These property valuations, conducted by the Cook County Assessor’s Office, determine what portion of the overall tax burden is paid by the individual property owners. The tax burden is based on the decision of each taxing body, including D90, D200, Park District, Library, Township, and the Village, whether or not to increase their tax levy to the residents. 

While many variables exist, the four most impactful factors which affect whether or not individual property tax bills will increase or decrease are:   

  • The amount of property tax requested by the taxing districts (property tax levies)   
  • The change in the value of a property relative to other properties within the same districts (property assessment)   
  • The 10.5% increase in the state-issued equalization factor compared to the prior year (from 2.9160 for 2019 to 3.2234 for 2020)   
  • Property tax exemptions. (For example, if a property owner received a Homeowner Exemption one year, but did not receive it the following year, the final taxable value of that property could be up to $10,000 higher without the exemption.)  

Though extremely detailed, the Cook County 2020 Tax Rate Report is an excellent resource for residents looking to learn more about property taxes. It includes graphics and frequently asked questions. All residents are encouraged to take time to understand their property tax bills. 

Why is Economic Development and Redevelopment Important in River Forest?

Village programs and services are provided with these guiding principles in mind: 

  • Providing a safe community. 
  • Making decisions that protect our property values. 
  • Working to stabilize property taxes. 

These guiding principles are why the Village continues to focus on economic development to strengthen its tax base.  

Approximately half of the property in River Forest is non-taxable, and River Forest is landlocked with very few opportunities to create new development. The Village utilizes economic development and redevelopment, where appropriate, to get the highest and best use out of each property while maintaining its small-town charm. To create opportunities, the Village approved tax increment financing (TIF) districts for the Madison Street and North Avenue commercial corridors. Commercial property is taxed at 25% of its assessed value while residential property is taxed at 10% of its assessed value. Increasing the value of commercial properties in the Village, in particular, can result in more revenue to each taxing body. Projects such as The Sheridan senior living community at Chicago & Harlem, which is taxed at a commercial rate, helps strengthen the Village’s tax base, stabilize the property tax bill, and bring amenities to the village.  

As a fully built-out community, the Village has limited opportunities for development.   That is why the Village established a Comprehensive Plan to inform decision-making regarding development, open space, and more.  Each development opportunity requires a heightened level of sensitivity and creativity to appropriately balance the Village’s existing character with the need and desire for economic development while protecting open space and environmental areas from development encroachment.   

The Village’s continued commitment to its guiding principles and core values, in conjunction with using sound economic development strategies, will benefit the entire community for the long term. 

Additional Resources: