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LETTER TO EDITOR         

Commissioner Joseph Berrios, Candidate for Cook County Assessor 

Today, (May 3) Cook County Board of Review commissioners held a press conference asking for Assessor Jim Houlihan to roll back home market values in 10 townships. Two board members in attendance criticized the Assessor for implementing the unvetted Claypool 10/25 Ordinance.

Board Commissioner Joseph Berrios, the third Board of Review commissioner, was in Springfield, advocating for emergency residential relief from the effects of this ordinance.

“When he announced his run for assessor last month, Mr. Claypool said he would put taxpayers first. However, as chief sponsor of Cook County’s 10/25 Ordinance, Mr. Claypool did not stand up for taxpayers – in fact, he failed them horribly,” Berrios said.

The “Claypool 10/25 Ordinance” is hurting more real people than Mr. Claypool can imagine. It is obvious he did not understand the assessment process, nor did he have the homeowners’ best interests in mind when he rammed this ordinance through the voting process. Either way, the “Claypool 10/25 Ordinance” is going to raise homeowner’s taxes unless something is done to correct it, Berrios said.

“Mr. Claypool worked with his ally, Assessor Houlihan, on the Ordinance, which was not clearly thought out, nor was it fully studied by a blue-ribbon task force,” Berrios said. “Now Cook County residential owners are suffering the consequences.”

A property tax task force met eight times, and was chaired by Don Haider of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Haider recently wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in the Chicago Tribune voicing his concerns because the task force was never allowed to finish its work.

“We were satisfied that the proposed change in residential valuations – to 10 percent of fair market value from 16 percent – would work,” Haider wrote. “But we received no data from the assessor or others to validate the proposed new 25 percent levels for commercial and industrial properties.”

Haider wrote that the task force wondered if the 10/25 Ordinance would unfairly burden homeowners, but it couldn’t make that determination because the Assessor never turned over the needed information. The board approved the “unvetted” ordinance, even though the task force hadn’t completed its work.

The Board of Review also sought information from Assessor Houlihan, but to no avail. Our review board raised its concerns regarding the 10/25 Ordinance to the County Board last fall. In a Nov. 3, 2009, letter to Board Commissioners, the panel stated its fears:

  • The Ordinance would cause an unjust shift in tax liability to homeowners.
  • A voluminous increase in appeals would cause the second installment of the 2009 tax bill to be “the latest in history.”
  • That by backing into market values, which is not supported under widely accepted appraisal practice, the Assessor has created a new basis for appeal where taxpayers are seeking “restoration” of prior year fair market values.”
  • Successful appeals will reflect such significant changes in value that there will be an unjust and disparate shift of tax liabilities.

“We’re seeing many of our fears come true,” Berrios said. “Instead, he is providing the legally minimum amount of information required on the notice. He knew he was raising everyone’s market values, but opted not to tell them.”

The tax burden is being shifted to the homeowners because commercial and industrial properties are receiving large reductions in assessed value because of the Claypool 10/25 Ordinance, he said. 

“The ordinance is the law and the Board of Review must follow the law. Our hands are tied. It is our duty as a government board is to determine market value and apply the legally required level of assessment,” Berrios said.

As chief sponsor of the “10/25 Ordinance,” it was Mr. Claypool’s job to make sure this ordinance was thoroughly vetted by the task force before he pushed it through into law.

“Mr. Claypool has created an undue hardship on thousands and thousands of homeowners across Cook County,” Berrios said. “If immediate action isn’t taken, it will also create a disastrous economic effect on townships, including school districts, across the county.”

Berrios promised that one of his first actions as Assessor would be to reconvene the property tax task force to complete its study.

“And that’s something Mr. Claypool should have made a top priority,” Berrios said.

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