On Jan. 29, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi joined SSMMA and village leaders to discuss what to expect after the South Suburbs are reassessed in 2020. Mayors questioned the assessor on what south suburban residents and businesses can anticipate their taxes to be in light of the office’s recent reassessment of the northern triad last year. He mentioned that the south suburbs are much different than the north and trends seen there are not directly comparable. The assessor stressed that the office does not approach the reassessment process with any preconceived outcomes but has instructed his analysts to follow market data and show their numbers. He also explained with a graphic that assessed values do not directly forecast what tax bills will be. He explained that tax bills are a combination of the total assessed value and local levies. From the assessed value side, he stressed that his focus is on using data to value property right the first time so that homeowners are not unfairly taking on more of their share of the pie. From the local levy standpoint, he reminded participants that most of this is used to fund schools and in the absence of a significant commercial or industrial base, residential property owners in the south suburbs often pay a greater share than in other parts of the county. He was clear that the south suburbs have some real challenges and some of the highest tax rates in the country and pointed to the need for a diversity of revenue sources to fund schools that can diminish the burden on property owners.
Kaegi also introduced a number of reforms that his office is rolling out this year. They include: new legislation that prevents seniors from having to reapply for exemptions each year, a new website, a new call center, and a new online appeals platform to replace paper filing. For commercial, the assessor discussed a new Real Property Income and Expense (RPIE) system that will allow these property owners to submit income and expense data to help the assessor’s office value property more fairly. With better data, the office can ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, which could provide relief to homeowners. This voluntary system supports the goals of the Data Modernization Bill that the assessor’s office is seeking to pass in the Illinois legislature that would require commercial property owners of a certain scale to provide this data to the assessor across the county.
Because of the challenges noted above, SSMMA is leading efforts with area legislators in support of House Bill 43, the Southland Reactivation Act, which could provide real property tax relief to south suburban communities. See Legislative Priorities for details.
Additional photos are here.