Transparent Property Taxes
On June 10th, 2017 the Chicago Tribune, working with ProPublica Illinois, released a report on the imbalanced property tax system in Cook County. The report, entitled The Tax Divide, described a system of property tax assessments that overvalued houses and buildings in low-income areas of Chicago and undervalued houses and buildings in high-income areas of the city. In property tax assessment systems this is known as “regressivity”. This shifted the property tax burden from the rich to the poor and did not follow market valuations of properties and houses in different neighborhoods. The report identifies the policies of the Cook County Assessor’s office, under Joe Berrios, as the primary cause for the imbalance of the property tax system. Through using outdated computer models and high rates of “hand checks” or manual adjustments of property tax rates, Berrios’ office consistently issued property tax assessments that were not in accordance with the market and reinforced the imbalance in the system.
Joe Berrios became Cook County Assessor in December of 2010. While the property tax system in Cook County showed regressivity problems prior to Berrios’ time in office, the problem became worse under his leadership. During his time in office, the number of property tax appeals increased. Between 2014 and 2016, 20 to 30 percent of all properties in Cook County appealed their assessments with higher income earners appealing at higher rates than low income residents. Furthermore, residents who could appeal usually received reductions in their assessment, further transferring the tax burden from rich to poor. Many appeals require hiring a property tax appeal lawyer, which compounds the inaccessibility of this system for low-income residents.
The imbalanced property tax assessment system undervalued many homes and properties in Lakeview. Since the release of the Tribune’s report, the Cook County Assessor’s office has released average assessment increases of 31 percent in Lakeview township. It is still unclear how they are calculating this year’s property tax assessments.
We need a transparent assessment system. The unfair tax system has led to this drastic increase of Lakeview’s property tax assessments, in addition to broader inequity in the Cook County property tax system. Help us demand transparency for this year's assessment.
In the News
Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Investigative Report June 2017 - The Tax Divide
Chicago Sun-Times February 2018 - Cook County property tax system unfair and needs fixing, review concludes
Civic Consulting Alliance Report February 2018 - Residential Property Assessment in Cook County: Summary of Analytical Findings
ProPublica March 2018 - Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ Defeat Opens the Door to Reform
Chicago Tribune January 2018 - Ethics board fines Cook County assessor $41,000 over political donations from lawyers