Low property tax collection rates in the south suburbs are having devastating effects on services offered to communities, according to recent research from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office.
The lowest property tax collection rate was 29% in Ford Heights. That’s followed by Robbins, where the rate jumped to 49%. Harvey and Phoenix sit at 52%. The overall property tax collection rate in Cook County, by comparison, is 96%.
According to the Treasurer’s Office report, that high number masks the mostly Black and lower-income communities struggling to collect taxes.
“We have difficulty providing just the basic services for people who deserve it in our city,” said Harvey Mayor Christopher J. Clark. “I’m talking about police and fire protection, streets, lights, curbs, sidewalks, the normal maintenance that probably everyday people would think that are supposed to happen with the city. We always have difficulty trying to come up with the funds to be able to do so.”
Hal Dardick, director of research for the Cook County Treasurer’s Office, said one of the root causes behind the low property tax collection rate is the inherent inequity that comes with primarily funding school systems through property taxes.
“There are communities with less wealth. … They’re going to have to keep increasing those rates to try to get to a place where they can afford it,” Dardick said. “I think some more progressive way in funding education in the state of Illinois will go a huge way.”
The treasurer's office report found that property tax collection rates in the south suburbs are driven down by a high number of vacant and abandoned properties. Dardick said another potential solution to addressing low collection rates is finding better ways to take deteriorating properties and put them back into productive use.