Cook County – Property owners for the first time can find out what portion of local government debt falls on them, thanks to a new, groundbreaking online tool created by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.
"Most reports identify government debt as an amount per person," Pappas said. "My latest study takes a more targeted approach by showing debt in relation to each property in Cook County."
The new, unique tool reveals that Willis Tower carries local government debt of nearly $289 million, equal to 41.5% of the iconic skyscraper’s $697 million value. A Riverdale house carries $31,800 in local debt, equal to 48% of its $67,000 value. And the debt on a house on Hodgkins has $127,400 in debt, equal to 25.7% of its $496,000 value.
By contrast, the debt on properties in more affluent, lower-tax areas, like Barrington Hills and Winnetka, falls below 10% of the value of the properties in those locations.
These new calculations are available at cookcountytreasurer.com, where property owners can click the purple box on the homepage and search their address to see their local debt burden compared to the value of their home in both dollar and percentage amounts.
The new methodology also allowed Pappas to better compare the overall debt burdens borne by residents of any Cook County city or village. That exercise revealed the burden of local government debt varies greatly throughout the county, with generally heavier burdens in less-affluent suburbs where the populations are more than 50% Black or Latino. The taxes tend to be much higher in many of those minority areas, an indication that more debt leads to higher property taxes.
"Property purchases in Cook County come with a hidden credit card balance, in the form of local government debt," Pappas said. "Property owners end up paying down that debt, on top of also covering their mortgage, utility and maintenance costs."