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Clerk Orr: Regressive Assessment Process Needs Transparency, Correction

Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, Regressive Assessment Process
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. (By Patrick Hickey – CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Clerk David Orr sent a statement to County Commissioners regarding the “regressive assessment process” in the office of County Assessor Joseph Berrios.

According to a story co-published July 17, 2107 on ProPublica.org and the Chicago Tribune, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune “investigation exposed widespread inequities in the county’s property tax system. Published in June, “The Tax Divide” showed the assessor’s office overvalued low-priced homes while undervaluing high-priced ones. These disparities in assessments — known as regressivity — led to inequities in property tax bills, giving the wealthy unsanctioned tax breaks while penalizing low-income residents.”

According to Clerk Orr, “Regressivity hurts low and middle income residents the most—putting them on the hook for a larger property tax bill than they should be paying. We have now learned that the new model, which was created to address regressivity, was never—or only partially—implemented.”

Mr. Orr’s statement follows:

Dear Commissioners,

I am very concerned that the problems with the assessment process have not been corrected. In 2015, Assessor Berrios, while announcing a new assessment model, stated that the assessment system was regressive. Regressivity hurts low and middle income residents the most—putting them on the hook for a larger property tax bill than they should be paying. We have now learned that the new model, which was created to address regressivity, was never—or only partially—implemented.

The Cook County Clerk’s Office is an integral part of the property tax system and we rely on accurate and fair assessments from the County Assessor’s Office to determine property tax rates.

I am aware that Assessor Berrios and President Preckwinkle are looking for experts to bring solutions and transparency to the assessment process. Still, two question must be asked: (1) why is the Assessor’s Office not using the model that, in 2015, they publicly touted would significantly alleviate this problem and, (2) what assessment model is the office currently using?

Three substantive studies have already been conducted: a 2011 study by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; a University of Chicago analysis commissioned by the Assessor in 2014 and funded by the MacArthur Foundation; and the Chicago Tribune investigation. Clearly, there is a crisis to solve and we must begin—as you are today—by speaking with the experts that have already spent countless hours studying the assessment process and developing stronger models.

If the choice is to move forward with an expert to offer solutions to the assessment system, then the selection process cannot be conducted behind closed doors. My office, and the other Cook County offices that administer the property tax system, must be involved. We need all hands on deck to assure the public that the property tax system is fair and transparent. Finally, any study of the crisis we face must be conducted with all deliberate speed.

The assessment process is complex. However, there has been a lack of transparency from the Assessor’s Office. The public cannot afford any delay in implementing real solutions.

David Orr
July 18, 2017

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