The Cook County Board of Review charged Monday that
Assessor James Houlihan was shifting the tax burden to homeowners with
the new, streamlined "10-25" system tying assessed property values to
Yet the system, which takes a complex number of
different assessment codes and replaces them with two - with assessment
set at 10 percent of market value for homeowners and 25 percent for
businesses - was approved by the Cook County Board two years ago to go
into effect this year.
"You can't tinker with an assessment system," said Board
of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. of Chicago in a news conference
Monday in Chicago. He said the simplified 10-25 system was causing "a
drastic shift in the tax burden" from businesses to homeowners.
Houlihan's office lashed back with a statement saying:
"The Board of Review is manufacturing an excuse to slash 2009
assessments for the big commercial landlords. But by doing that they'll
put more and more of the tax burden on homeowners. This shift of the tax
burden won't happen unless the board allows it to. They're claiming
they have to do what the property-tax lawyers want them to. But they
have a choice; if they don't issue massive reductions for commercial
property at homeowners' expense, the tax burden won't be shifted."
Basically, the new 10-25 system was intended to bring
market values - traditionally undervalued in Cook County assessments -
closer to reality. So even as the assessor's office points out that
every residential property in the county received a lowered assessed
value this year, that has resulted in higher stated market values. The
Board of Review, however, which rules on contested assessments, has
shown its readiness to accept arguments on appeal that a market value
can't have risen in the current real-estate market.
"We will follow the law, but what we're seeing is record
numbers of appeals from the aggrieved homeowners and taxpayers," Rogers
said. "Aggrieved business owners are filing appeals like never before."
Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios, who was in
Springfield lobbying for relief on the system he called "the Claypool
10/25 Ordinance" because it was sponsored by Cook County Commissioner
Forrest Claypool, said it "is going to raise homeowners' taxes unless
something is done to correct it."
Claypool is running against Berrios as an independent to
replace the retiring Houlihan as assessor.
Also involved is a battle over when tax bills will go
out. The assessor's office said it finished its duties last week - a
week ahead of its self-imposed deadline - and challenged the Board of
Review to complete its duties in the usual 21/2 to three months.
Citing the number of appeals, Rogers said he couldn't
commit to having the bills ready before November.
Houlihan has charged the board - led by Berrios, head of
the Cook County Democratic Party - was dragging its feet to delay bills
until after the election.
Republican county board presidential candidate Roger
Keats of Wilmette, who attended the Board of Review news conference,
dismissed it out of hand. He called the entire Cook County assessment
system "a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud," adding,
"The symptom is property-tax assessment. The problem is government
He said all government bodies have to cut spending in
order to give taxpayers relief and called on Cook County to adopt the
same assessment system as the rest of Illinois - at a uniform one-third
of market value - thus eliminating the need for the state multiplier
used in Cook County.
He called the Cook County system "a silly formula that
doesn't work, doesn't function and completely makes people feel their
assessment isn't what it is."
Keats has been critical of the way law firms owned by
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton
typically argue tax appeals before Berrios. He called that a conflict of
interest and said, "We have based a mini-industry on screwing the
Comparing Houlihan with the Board of Review, Keats said,
"They're both wrong, but Houlihan is less wrong," adding, "At least his
process is much more open than it used to be."
Rogers said the board backs Gov. Pat Quinn's call for
property-tax relief in Cook County, but pulled up short of endorsing a
renewal of the so-called 7 percent homeowners exemption, a proposal
backed by Houlihan to limit increases but stymied in the General
Assembly by Madigan.