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Chicago residents protest outside Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office after Cook County property taxes increase in Pilsen

CHICAGO (WLS) — Soaring Cook County property tax bills are hitting longtime homeowners in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood especially hard.

Several residents joined in on a Thursday protest, saying the large increase could force them from their homes.

Teresa Fraga has lived in this home for 40 years with her husband. They are retired on a fixed income.

Several of their six children and nine grandchildren live in their building, which was built in 1885. The rest of the family lives nearby in the Pilsen neighborhood.

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The 80-year-old said the most recent real estate tax bill puts all that in jeopardy.

“I said this has to be a mistake. This is a mistake,” Fraga recalled.

Fraga’s first installation tax bill in the spring was for a little more than $2,200, but the second installation in the fall is more than seven times that amount, adding up to over $14,000.

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A number of Pilsen residents said they have also seen huge increases in their real estate tax bills. Several dozen of them protested outside assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office, with many holding signs illustrating their frustration.

“He took it from $400,000 value to $1.2 million value in one sweeping action,” said Badger, a Pilsen resident. “Caused our tax bill to go from $7,000 to $20,000.”

The assessor is in Springfield but sent his chief of staff to assure protestors he wants to work with them.

“There’s a lot of speculative real estate happening in Pilsen and other communities, that gentrification is reflected in assessments,” said Scott Smith, the assessor’s chief of staff.

In the meantime, Fraga and other residents are unable to pay the current bills.

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“On a fixed income, definitely we would have to move out of the neighborhood. Maybe downsize,” Fraga said.

Kaegi has committed to meeting with residents in Pilsen next week. Many residents said that’s a good first step but they’re hoping he’ll provide answers that will allow them to remain residents.

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