Cook County Decides to Emulate Rest of State on Assessments…Sorta

How long has my former legislative colleague Jim Houlihan been Cook County Assessor?

When I first met him he was a freshman state representative like I was. He had a high profile because he was Governor Dan Walker’s floor leader.

He took office in 1997, his office biography says.

The first time I saw him after he took office, I suggested that he ought to ask for legislative permission to do what every other assessor in the state does—assess annually.

With multipliers adjusting assessments every year, there would not be the huge jumps in assessment every three years that occurred under the Cook County so-called triennial system, I told him.

Now State Rep. Kevin Joyce (D-Chicago) has passed a bill to do just that.

Maybe former Cook County Assessor Tom Hynes had something to do with that entirely common sense idea.

The Chicago Tribune article by Ashley Wiehle reports,

“The legislation advanced the same day Houlihan proposed a separate measure to lower Cook assessment levels from 16 percent to 10 percent for residential properties and from as high as 38 percent down to 25 percent for commercial and industrial properties. In practice, homeowners already have been assessed at that level for years.

Congratulations to reporter Wiehle for inserting the last sentence above, which I have put in boldface type.

The assessment level of homes has been at 10% or below for close to two decades.

Reporter after reporter has failed to put that FACT in their stories. Instead they have reported the FICTION that Cook County homeowners were assessed at 16% of market value.

“That’s what the ordinance says,” I heard too many tell me, some oblivious of the Illinois Department of Revenue studies comparing assessments to sale prices (called Sales Ratio Studies).

Of course, the Cook County Assessor’s office did similar studies, although I had the female lobbyist for the office tell me in the mid-1990’s when Republicans were putting Cook County under the jurisdiction of the State Property Tax Appeal Board that none such existed.

Sure. The second largest assessing jurisdiction (after Los Angeles) didn’t have this essential tool of the trade.

What baloney!

Better late than never on switching to annual assessments and admitting the assessment level is 10% (or less, as often has been the case), rather than 16% Cook County ordinance level.

You wondering about the “Sorta” in the headline?

Cook County homeowners are still assessed at a far lower percentage of market value than homeowners elsewhere in Illinois. The last time I did the calculation, those of living outside of Cook County were assessed about 50% higher than those living in Cook County.

Animal Farm all over.


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