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Property owners promised tax relief
COOK COUNTY | Board of Review says it will 'roll back' assessments

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRAN SPIELMAN

The fix isn’t in for beleaguered Cook County homeowners struggling to pay rising property tax bills. But it might as well be.

Mayor Daley today urged homeowners to appeal their “illogical” assessments to the Cook County Board of Review — and commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. all but guaranteed those who do that adjustments will be made to reflect the downturn in the housing market.

“There’s no way you should see increases in your assessment when you have boarded-up homes and foreclosed properties surrounding your home. If market prices are dropping, those are things that are relevant to what your assessed value should be,” Rogers told a City Hall news conference.

“We will be responsive. As necessary, we’ll roll back your taxes to prior years’ assessments because people are hurting and getting run out of their communities. . . . We have to be responsive to what’s going on currently — not years ago. Business entities are getting bailed out, and people need some avenue of relief to deal with being run out of their homes because of increased assessed values.”

Board of Review Commissioner Brendan Houlihan said the sub-prime mortgage and credit crises are causing housing prices to plummet, but property tax bills are going in the opposite direction. The numbers “defy belief,” he said.

“I see the same bewildered look in taxpayer’' eyes as they ask me to explain how their assessment went up 20, 30, 40 percent when the value of their home went down 20, 30, 40 percent. It’s hard to explain,” he said.

Flogging a favorite whipping post, Daley demanded that Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan make real-time adjustments to reflect declining property values.

“The taxpayers of Cook County want immediate relief. There has to be . . . flexibility. If not, there are gonna be more abandoned homes, more foreclosed homes and more people moving out of rental apartments. They can’t afford it. You have to act immediately,” Daley said.

“He has to take into consideration economic downturns. It’s here. You can’t wait three years to figure this out . . . with all the technology we invested in the assessment process.

“You see the downturns. I’ll drive you to communities and show you downturns. We will show you where people have walked away from their property, foreclosed property or abandoned property. We will show you where people cannot afford their taxes because of their assessments,” said Daley.

Houlihan said he’s eager to make adjustments. But, he can’t do it “in a fiscally responsible way” without an additional appropriation from the County Board or approval from the Illinois General Assembly to do a so-called “factor adjustment” based on the consumer price index and other real estate indicators.

“Our budget is $20 million to do the assessment every three years. If we were to do annual assessment, we might look at it being another $20 million,” Houlihan said.

He added, “We should make an annual assessment or annual review of the market. We’d love to do it. It’s the right thing to do. I am doing everything I can to get that accomplished. I’m glad the mayor is joining the effort. If he would help us get that passed, I would be able to do that next year.”

Last spring, Daley persuaded the Board of Review for the first time in its history to reopen the appeals process for a special two-week period, even though the regular filing deadline was passed.

Roughly 140,000 homeowners filed appeals, according to commissioner Joe Berrios.



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