Gary H. Smith
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Will the New Assessment Model Be More Accurate?

By Gary Smith
Will the New Assessment Model Be More Accurate?

After years of inaccurate assessments, which was publicly outed by the Chicago Tribune in a series called “The Tax Divide,” the Cook County Assessor’s Office is using a new assessment formula.

However, the jury is still out on whether this will create more accurate and fairer assessments. And it will be difficult to judge that point as the assessor’s office is keeping the new formula under wraps.

Tax Formula Impacts Tax Bill Increases

Cook County residents have been burned before as Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios released a press release in 2015 that was nearly identical to the one recently sent out. However, there was no change in the assessment system at that time, despite a more accurate and less regressive model that was created at that time with the help of Christopher Berry, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School for Public Policy.

Incoming Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, who beat Berrios in the March election and will take office in December, has already said making the new formula public is one of his highest priorities. That could happen sooner, however, as an Illinois appeals court has ruled that Berrios must turn over documents that have been used to value residential and business properties. Previously, Berrios has refused to make these documents public, despite a public records request from the Tribune.

Property taxes are complicating. A property owner’s portion of the overall sum—which goes to the Chicago Public Schools, City Hall, the county, the forest preserve district and other government entities—is based on how much their property is worth in relation to other properties. The overall total of property taxes needed to run the government entities listed above is the overall total of dollars that will need to be collected in property taxes.

According to the Cook County Assessor’s office, this new formula will make the property tax system fairer because if home values go down in one part of the city, the overall tax burden will be shifted to areas where home values are rising.

It will remain to be seen how this new formula truly impacts property owners, as those tax bills won’t be sent out until 2019. Flawed assessments under Assessor Berrios caused $2 billion shift in Chicago property taxes.

Homeowners are always able to appeal their tax bill to the Cook County Assessor’s Office or the Cook County Board of Review.