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Cook County Treasurer Tool Compares Debt Burden To Home Value

Katie Jensen
Jun 08, 2021
Cook County Treasurer

Data shows heavier debt burden falls on less affluent suburbs.

A newly innovated tool created by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas allows property owners to find out what portion of local government debt falls on them. 

The unique tool found that Willis Tower carries nearly $289 million in local government debt, which makes up 41.5% of its $697 million value. One Riverdale house was found to have $31,800 in debt, equal to 48% of its value. The debt on a Hodgkins house is $127,400, equal to 25.7% of its value. However, the debt on affluent properties in lower-tax areas, like Barrington Hills and Winnetka, falls below 10% the value of those properties.  

Pappas said, "Most reports identify government debt as an amount per person. My latest study takes a more targeted approach by showing debt in relation to each property in Cook County."

These calculations are available at cookcountytreasurer.com, where homeowners can search their address to see their local debt burden compared to the value of their home. Figures are presented in both dollar and percentage amounts. 

The methodology also allows Pappas to compare overall debt burden borne by residents of any Cook County city or village. The exercise revealed that a heavier debt burden falls on less affluent suburbs where populations are more than 50% Black or Latino. Taxes are also higher in minority areas, indicating 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. Property owners end up paying down that debt, on top of also covering their mortgage, utility and maintenance costs," Pappas added. 

To access these calculations or learn more about the tool’s methodology, click here. 

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