Property taxes and predatory government in Cook Country
Can someone explain to me the difference between the property tax system in Cook Country and a shakedown? Illinoispolicy.org explains:
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Sept. 22 announced plans to enact the largest property-tax hike in modern Chicago history, which will raise nearly $1.8 billion in new property-tax revenues over the next four years.
But as the tax hikes hit Chicago families and businesses, a who’s who of the state’s political elite will continue to line their pockets off of a property-tax game in which their connections are priced at a premium.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke both run law firms specializing in the lucrative field of Cook County property-tax appeals, one of the most inefficient, corrupt systems in urban politics. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is a member of a large law firm that handles a range of issues, including property-tax law. The three have held political office in Illinois for a combined 126 years.
The property-tax-assessment process in Cook County is convoluted by design. But here’s how it works in simple terms:
First, the Cook County Assessor’s Office assesses the value of every property in the county. The value of any given property is reassessed once every three years. This “assessed value” is then used to calculate the property taxes owed by each property owner.
Property owners can then appeal that assessed value in a number of ways. They can file a request with the assessor asking for a reduction, appeal the valuation to the Cook County Board of Review, file a lawsuit in which a judge will decide the value, or the property owner and the Cook County State’s Attorney will enter into a settlement agreement over the value.
Flawed property valuations and the process required to fix them are a cash cow for law firms, including those of Madigan, Burke and Cullerton, which know what strings to pull. These law firms handle the ways in which the assessed value of a property is appealed: the request with the assessor, the appeal to the Cook County Board of Review, and lawsuits.
The Cook County Board of Review – which exists solely to field appeals for assessments by the Cook County Assessor’s Office – processed appeals for more than 400,000 properties in 2013.
What doesn’t add up is nearly two-thirds of those appeals were successful: an astonishing number that reveals a faulty assessment process ripe for savvy attorneys.
Any way you slice it, taxpayers lose.
And, of course, the top politicians win.