Staffers under outgoing Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios hand-edited more than a fifth of property tax assessments that had been produced by the office’s computer model, according to one assessor.
Following a lawsuit by the Chicago Tribune, the office’s director of residential valuations testified that Berrios’s team often used apartment-finding websites like Zillow and Trulia to guess how much property owners should cough up each year, the newspaper reported Friday.
The staffer added his team sometimes smoothed out assessments to remove outliers and keep property tax consistent across entire neighborhoods, often without guidance from any explicit policy.
Berrios came under heavy scrutiny last year after a multi-part Tribune investigation found evidence that his office deflated the assessed values of properties in wealthy areas while asking poorer households to pay more than their fair share. The longtime county official lost his bid for reelection in this year’s Democratic primary to asset manager Fritz Kaegi, leading some large property owners to brace for higher assessments starting next year.
This year’s re-assessment of Chicago properties jacked up the tax burden on many homes in the city’s wealthier North Side, raising some value assessments by as much as 76 percent over the city’s last round of evaluations in 2015. [Chicago Tribune] — Alex Nitkin