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Downtown residents overtaxed

Tax bill thumbnail imageWith property tax payments due today, many downtown Evanston condo owners may not be aware their bills include an extra tax they shouldn’t have been stuck with.

Because of what city officials say was a mixup by county officials, condo owners downtown are being billed for the Special Service Area 4 tax, which was supposed to have been levied only against commercial properties.

City Finance Director Marty Lyons says the city sent the county proper information indicating which parcels should, and should not, have been taxed for the special district, but somehow the calculations weren’t made properly by the county.

Lyons says the city is working to arrange a procedure by which the condo owners will be reimbursed for the over taxation — but he said he didn’t know how long it will take to get the issue straightened out.

In the meantime, he recommends that condo owners pay the full amount shown on their tax bill, because the county has trouble handling partial payments and the residents might end up being charged late fees.

The mistaken tax adds about 3 percent to a typical condo owner’s 2007 tax bill.

Tax highlighted
The exta tax highlighted on one condo owner’s bill.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the larger pool of properties taxed to raise the special service area funding means that owners of properties that were supposed to be taxed were taxed at a lower rate than they should have been.

As a result, Lyons says, owners of commercial properties downtown will see an extra charge on their next tax bill to make up the difference.

Lyons says the city has sent a letter to condo associations informing them of the issue and expects to send a letter to all condo owners about it soon.

The special service area tax funds operations of EvMark, the downtown marketing organization that also manages some streetscape maintenance work in the downtown area.

Excluding the condo owners from the tax was a key issue in winning City Council approval of a renewal and expansion of the special service area last year so that EvMark could expand its operations.

Downtown resident Maureen Posner of 1720 Maple Ave. called the situation "a big mess," and speculated that condo owners may not get their money back until next year’s tax bills are issued.

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