Chicagoans may pay more property taxes due to commercial assessments

Cook County Assessor has bad new for homeowners

From left: Fritz Kaegi and Cook County Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr
From left: Fritz Kaegi and Cook County Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr (Getty, Cook County Board of Review)

Chicago homeowners should brace for a larger tax burden this year. This is the warning Cook County Assessor, Fritz Kaegi, issued this week.

Kaegi’s office released a report that found that the Board of Review reduced assessments of commercial properties done by the Cook County Assessor’s office, resulting in flat or higher tax bills for homeowners, the Chicago Tribune reported. The report also claims that if the assessments done by Kaegi’s office had remained in place, homeowners would have gotten a tax break.

Kaegi took office in 2018 after defeating his predecessor, Joseph Berrios, who was the center of a federal lawsuit. During his eight-year tenure as Cook County assessor and his time as a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review before that, Berrios’ campaign raised millions of dollars from lawyers representing property owners seeking to reduce their taxes, according to accusations.

The Board of Review receives complaints from property owners who claim their properties are worth less than the assessed value. Owners of commercial properties have said Kaegi’s assessments were unfairly high, citing various issues like elevated vacancies or increased expenses.

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The three-person Board of Review often agrees with the complainants and lowers their final bill. Commissioners Larry Rogers Jr., Tammy Wendt and Michael Cabonargi currently make up the Board.

“We’ve never had a year like this,” Kaegi told the outlet. “It’s never been reversed for a whole area, especially as large as Chicago. This is truly extraordinary, and the financial implication is also so much greater. … Homeowners are going from having their share of the burden down 5.9 percentage points, which on a levy that’s somewhere around $7.5 billion, that’s over half a billion dollars per year that would have been staying with homeowners, now that’s not happening … this is really stunning.”

Board of Review spokesperson William O’Shields said in a statement that the report ignored the errors Kaegi made and essentially shifted the blame onto him and his peers.

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Victoria Pruitt