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Senior homestead exemption to increase

Senior citizen homeowners should notice a slight decrease in their property taxes when they get their bills next year.

A law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn this week increased the homestead exemption for Illinois residents age 65 and older from $4,000 to $5,000 beginning in 2014. The adjusted exemption could save Illinois seniors as much as $200 a year on their property taxes.

The exemption, which is available to all senior citizens, will knock an additional $1,000 off the equalized assessed value of seniors’ properties.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, voted for the bill.

“Trying to give some exemptions to the most vulnerable people seems to me to be good public policy,” he said.

Pritchard said he realized the change wasn’t necessarily a good thing for residents across the board.

“I know this might create some cost shift locally,” he said. “Anytime you exempt some residents, you’re placing the burden elsewhere.”

Chief County Assessment Officer Robin Brunschon said this added reduction for senior citizens could result in higher property tax rates overall.

“Somewhere, they’re going to have to make up that money,” she said.

Although the county’s 2014 property tax rates have not been established yet, Brunschon gave an example of just how much money some of the county’s senior citizens could save.

If the tax rate is around 9 percent in a particular area, she said the senior homeowner could save about $90.

But Brunschon said the exact amount all homeowners would pay next year depends on the levy.

“The assessed value is what makes up each property owner’s portion of the total levy,” she said.

With more than 5,600 seniors who were enrolled in the exemption program last year, Brunschon said she believes the new law should benefit many senior citizens.

“There are a lot of struggling senior citizens right now,” she said. “So this will hopefully help them out.”

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