CHICAGO — A review of the Cook County property tax system may be nothing more than a political witch hunt, according to a local property tax attorney.
Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, has called for a review of the county’s property tax system, according to a press release.
The reason behind the move was said to be recent reports of “inequities” in the administration of property taxes in the county.
Yet, Don Rubin, a property tax attorney, told the Cook County Record that, while he is always open to having government reviews, he is not convinced this arises from a genuine attempt to better the system.
“We have to distinguish between a serious attempt to improve the process with a review and the possibility of a politically motivated witch hunt,” Rubin said. “I think the issue with regards to [the] review of the assessor's office is a combination of both, to be honest with you. I don’t think that constructive criticism should be resisted. I just want to be sure that is what it is, and I am not sure.”
Rubin said the complexities and legalities around assessments are something that many people don’t understand and may make them suspicious.
“I think that mass appraisal systems simply have a tendency to generalize evaluations,” he said. “It doesn’t always get it right for each and every property.”
He explained that when someone buys a property it is not assessed according to what was paid, but rather uniformly.
While home owners bemoan property taxes, Rubin said they often overlook the importance of the tax.
“They provide a lot of services which the public doesn’t get -schools, libraries, forest preserves, police, fire departments. I don’t think that property tax is properly defended,” he said.
Rubin said there have been some situations in which property taxes were too high, particularly where there has been an eroding tax base.
“Certainly in the south and southeast sides of Cook County, unemployment is up, economic income is down and property values are down, and I don’t know that the assessor always catches up as quickly as they might otherwise,” he said.
However, Rubin laid part of the blame with homeowners who rarely take advantage of the outreach activities the assessor’s office conducts regularly.
“The problem is that people don’t take advantage of them," he said. "There have been instances where they hold these and only a few people show up.”
Rubin advised homeowners to attend such sessions, as there were often opportunities to learn more about filing a complaint and receiving a review of a property.
The review of the assessor’s office will be done by Civic Consulting Alliance.
The review was launched in the wake of a series of reports published by The Chicago Tribune exposing what they indicated were questionable property tax assessment practices within the office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.
Berrios also serves as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.