Increase to tax break for seniors passes in Ill.

It will lower property tax bills starting in ’14

Older homeowners will get a bigger tax break on their tax bills next year.

The Illinois House and Senate overwhelming passed – with just two “no” votes in the House and none in the Senate – a bill that raises the senior citizen homestead exemption from $4,000 to $5,000.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law on Tuesday.

The increase amounts to savings of about $100 for a senior citizen with a home valued at $200,000 in Crystal Lake.

The change goes into effect immediately in Cook County, but for McHenry County and the rest of the state, the change affects bills sent out in 2014 and later.

Several area legislators said the difference was because of the timeline for Cook County assessments, which runs later than in other counties.

The exemption has been steadily rising since 2003, when the exemption was $2,000 in counties other than Cook.

The way property taxes are calculated doesn’t take into consideration that home values are falling and that many senior citizens are on fixed incomes, said state Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake. The change in the exemption tries to address some of that disconnect.

“I get calls every day from seniors literally in tears who are scared they are going to lose their homes,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

Franks was a co-sponsor of the bill.

He also has sponsored a bill that would prevent governments subject to the property-tax cap from collecting increases in years that their overall assessed value decreased unless they have voter approval.

The measure was defeated earlier this month in a 43-65 vote, but Franks said he’s still working on getting the measure through.

Currently, governments under the tax cap can raise the amount they collect in property taxes by the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less, regardless of whether property values are going up or down.

How they voted

A bill that raises the senior citizen homestead exemption, Senate Bill 1894, passed both the Illinois House and Senate. Here’s how area legislators voted:

State Sens. Pam Althoff, Dan Duffy and Karen McConnaughay all voted “yes.”

State Reps. Jack Franks, Barbara Wheeler, David McSweeney, and Michael Tryon all voted “yes.”

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