Cook County Equalization Factor sees largest year-over-year increase since '08 - '09

Cook County Equalization Factor sees largest year-over-year increase since '08 - '09

September 01, 2021 5

The Cook County Equalization Factor increased from 3.2334% from 2.9160%, fully 0.3074%, in tax year 2020, the largest year-over-year increase it has seen since 2008 into 2009.

Between 1994 and 2008, the county Equalization Factor fluttered up and down between 2.1243% and 2.9786% before maxing out at 3.3701% in 2009: Up 0.40% from the year before. 

That was the biggest jump the Equalization Factor saw over the past 26 years. The next biggest jump in the sample period is now 2020.

Increases to the Equalization Factor produce universal upwards pressure on all Cook County property owners' tax bills.  

That's because the Cook County Equalization Factor is simply a multiplier that every property owner's tax assessment is put through to calculate their tax bills. Its purpose is to make all Cook County property tax assessments uniform with those of the rest of Illinois. This is necessary because Cook County has a bifurcated tax assessment system whereby residential property is assessed at 10% of its estimated fair cash value and commercial 25%.

In the rest of Illinois, all property is assessesed at 33.33% of fair cash value. The Cook County Equalization Factor multiplier, then, evens out all assessments at 33.33% to calculate state tax burdens evenly. 

The almost unprecedented increase it saw in 2020 is exactly why Cook County property owners saw a 3+% increase to their collective property tax burden in 2020, despite the much-ballyhooed "Covid-19 adjustment" reducing tax assessments all over Cook County on the premise that the virus would lead to a drop in property selling prices. 

Even slight changes to the Equalization Factor can dramatically increase tax bills, let alone one of this size. Consequently, we saw the entire Covid-19 adjustment cannibalized, and then some, by the 0.3074% Equalization Factor increase in 2020, resulting in a significant year-over-year property tax increase. 

For comparison, the Equalization Factor only increased by 0.0059% in 2019 as compared to 2019.