‘Home Alone’ with a $35K property tax bill

‘Home Alone’ with a $35K property tax bill

No longer are two guys in stocking caps attacking the Winnetka house made famous in the holiday movie, but property taxes and declining home values are still robbing the owners.

The “Wet Bandits” may not be trying to get into the “Home Alone” house anymore, but they’ve been replaced by high property tax bills robbing the McCallister residence of value.

Property taxes paid on the movie’s Winnetka house were $35,155 in 2019 and are on track to be a few hundred dollars more in 2020. Since 1990, when the holiday film featuring a young Macaulay Culkin came out, the homeowners have paid more than $890,000 in property taxes.

The climb each year was steady through the 1990s, then spiked from just over $24,000 in 2006 to more than $30,000 in 2007. Recent taxes have been stable.

The value of the house at 671 Lincoln Ave. in Winnetka has taken a hit in recent years, losing about $256,000 in value. It sold for nearly $1.6 million in 2012. Assessors now peg the market value at just over $1.3 million.

Property tax pain isn’t limited to the suburbs: Chicago’s single-family residences were hit hard in 2019 by average property tax increases of nearly $600 in the central part of the city and $536 in northern neighborhoods, according to a report by the county clerk. The south side average increased $23 and Cook County’s suburbs were unchanged.

Average property tax bills were $5,213 in north Chicago, $5,870 in the central city and $2,413 on the south side. North and northwest suburb bills averaged $7,402, while south and west suburbs were $5,710.

Realtors say high property taxes are hurting home sales, which are responsible for about 16% of the state’s economic activity. During the first 10 months of the year, existing home sales in Chicago dropped 6% as they increased 4.5% in the rest of the country. Taking the longer view, Chicago prices are still 12% below where they were before the recession. The U.S. values are nearly 13% above where they were before the recession, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

The McCallister family’s old home is supporting 11 different taxing districts through its property taxes, and those government units have a combined public pension and health care shortfall of $17.6 billion. Only one of the units, the mosquito abatement district, has enough to meet the needs of its five retirees and 12 active employees. Cook County leads the pension naughty list with $16 billion less than it will eventually need from local taxpayers.

Taken together, growing pension deficits, high property taxes and dropping property values combine to rob homeowners a piece at a time. State leaders are being forced to face these problems as the alarm goes offthat property taxes are dragging down the state’s economy.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s property tax relief task force is expected to issue its report by Dec. 31, but the solutions are in plain sight – waiting for someone to act.

First, Illinois needs to shed its nation-leading 7,000 separate units of government. Each Illinoisan supports twice as many government units as the average U.S. resident.

Second, Illinois needs to control its growing public pension debt, pegged at $200 billion for state and local retirement funds, that is pushing uncontrolled spending. That would require lawmakers coming together in support of a constitutional amendment that protects earned pension benefits while allowing for changes in the growth of future, unearned benefits.

Mistakes were made, but maybe the holiday season is when resourcefulness and quick action can inspire meaningful reform – before property taxes inflict any more pain on the “Home Alone” house.

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