Gary H. Smith
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Cook County Valuations Leaving Property Owners Speechless

By Gary Smith
Cook County Valuations Leaving Property Owners Speechless

After years of low commercial property tax assessments in Cook County, small business owners are surprised by the increase in their assessments this year. In Evanston, one of the northern suburbs receiving their property assessments this year as part of a three-year cycle, some small business owners received assessments that are upwards of 250 percent higher than previous years.

Re-evaluating the System Leads to High Assessments

According to new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, these assessments are so high because his office is trying to bring previously inaccurate assessments in line with the reality of property values.

The businesses getting hit the hardest are often the smaller, family-owned businesses run out of properties that have been in the family for years. Therefore, no current data exists to help set cap rates and make financial assumptions.

Right now, Kaegi says, his office depends on these business owners appealing their property taxes to correct mistakes in the assessment process.

The Illinois General Assembly is considering a data modernization bill, SB 1379, which would help the assessor’s office gather better data to enable it to provide more realistic assessments for commercial property tax purposes.

As it stands now, it’s up to property owners to right-size those assessments through the appeals process.

How to Appeal Property Assessments

Homeowners and commercial property owners alike should always double-check the information listed on the property, regardless if they decide to move forward with an appeal:

  • Is the square footage correct and is it located on the correct lot?
  • Is the age of the property correct?
  • Is the purchase price correct?
  • Are there defects in the property, such as a leaky roof, that are not listed?

If there are errors in the record, owners should appeal the assessment so the record can be fixed and the taxable value adjusted.

Even if the information is correct, an owner can still appeal the assessed value.

The assessed values of similar properties should be reviewed. A look at the tax records for properties in the neighborhood that have the same amount of square footage, same features, and were built the same year will provide that information.

In addition, if an owner feels there are major repairs they would need to make to sell the property, photos and a list of those items should be included with the comparable property value information.