Last Friday, the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA) released a study that calls into question the fairness of the property tax assessment system for Cook County for residential properties. The study, commissioned last July by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Assessor Joe Berrios, analyzes the inner workings of the County’s assessment process and compares Cook County’s system to other jurisdictions across the country. This study follows the Chicago Tribune’s three-part series on the County’s property tax system, The Tax Divide which we reported on in a previous alert. You can read the CCA’s study here.
The CCA study focused on four areas: Uniformity, Timeliness, Compliance, and Transparency. The Assessor’s Office and the CCA agreed on a five-phase approach to the evaluation process (Scoping, Diagnostic, Solutions Development, Planning, and Implementation). The Scoping and Diagnostic phases were completed as of the release date of the study. As part of their research, the CCA spoke with Franczek Radelet partners Ares Dalianis and Scott Metcalf regarding their knowledge of the County’s property tax system.
Consistent with the Tribune’s three-part series, the CCA found that the Cook County property tax system is more variable and regressive than agreed upon industry standards, which in turn has contributed to a transfer of wealth from owners of lower-value homes to those of higher-value homes. Regarding variability, the study finds that a home worth $100,000 has a 50% chance of being assessed between $75,000 and $125,000 and a 50% chance of being valued further from its market value. Further, the study determined that the current system is more regressive, which means owners of high-value homes tend to pay a lower effective tax rate than those with lower-valued homes. The CCA also noted that the current Cook County property tax system has an unusually high number of appeals as compared to other jurisdictions in the country and abroad, with higher rates of appeals for owners of high-value homes.
One bright spot identified by the CCA is that for the last six years, the various stakeholders within the property tax system have successfully worked together to issue second installment tax bills on time, a feat that had not been accomplished in decades.
The CCA’s study and its conclusions of regressivity comes at pivotal moment, as Joe Berrios faces a primary challenge to keep his position as Cook County Assessor.