CHICAGO, ILÂ – Cook County Assessor candidate Joseph Berrios unveiled a four-point plan for homeowners on his newly launched websiteÂ www.electjoeberrios.com.Â The Berrios Plan will generate more money for Cook County, provide homeowners with fair assessments at market value, add new technology to make assessments more accurate, and improve customer service. It will also call for a blue-ribbon committee to reconvene so that it can review an existing ordinance that is causing homeowners undue hardships.Â Â
One way Berrios plans to improve the Assessor’s office is by working hand-in-hand with township assessors. It was reported late Tuesday that in Evanston more than 1,500 building permits weren’t reported to Cook County over a three-year period, leaving Evanston officials trying to figure out how much tax revenue was lost as a result.
Â “This is completely unfair to the rest of the homeowners who have to make up for the remaining share,” Berrios said.
The Evanston Township assessor and the city’s building department share responsibility for getting the permits to the county, officials said.
“Building permits are the main way the Cook County Assessor’s office knows whether it should inspect a property to evaluate whether it has increased in value,” Berrios said. The failure to move forward those permits means the property has been undervalued and that other residential property owners are paying more than their fair share. Most of the under-reported permits happened under the watch of former Evanston Township Assessor, and current Republican candidate for Cook County Assessor, Sharon Eckersall.
Eckersall claimed the township’s permit department wouldn’t turn over permits, but it was her job to make sure that happened, Berrios said.
“Candidate Eckersall can pass the blame around all she wants, but the responsibility ultimately lies at her feet,” Berrios said.
The Berrios plan announced on Thursday will also:
- Thoroughly examine the ‘Claypool 10/25 Ordinance’Â
It was promised by the current Assessor that this ordinance would bring transparency and simplicity to the property tax system. Instead, it has resulted in an unfair and confusing methodology that has caused undue hardship on homeowners. Berrios will ensure that the ordinance is studied thoroughly by a blue-ribbon panel to assess viability and determine necessary changes. This study will include a “consequences” section so that the Cook County Board of Commissioners understands the potential effect of the ordinance and any revisions.
- Use new technology to make land assessments more accurate
Cook County is losing millions upon millions of dollars because some properties are assessed as vacant land, yet there are homes being built on some of these properties. Through the use of a new computerized system, we will be able toÂ review every parcel using aerial photographs. These pictures could be compared to assessment records and used to verify vacant land parcels. As Assessor, Berrios will also improve human communication between my office and township assessors, as well as the City of Chicago, to make sure that building permits are submitted to my office in a timely fashion. This will help ensure that assessments are accurate and filed promptly.
- Fairly assess properties at market value
Homeowners are being unfairly hit with tremendous fair market value increases by the current Assessor during the most serious economic decline in decades. Transparency is key to understanding your assessment notice. Berrios will make sure that properties are fairly assessed and that assessment notices are easy to understand.
- Improve customer service
This will happen in a variety of manners.Â
“As a customer, you will be treated with the respect you deserve,” Berrios said. “I will make sure that phones are answered promptly, messages are returned, and that the office is open on several Saturdays each year during tax calendar crunch time.” This will allow working families to visit the office without having to take time off from their jobs.
Â Berrios says he will also keep suburban offices open so homeowners don’t have to travel downtown. Â
Finally, Berrios says he will rely on staff more effectively than any previous assessor. Homeowner counselors will be available to help serve you on a one-on-one basis so that you, as a property owner, understand your rights, your benefits, your taxes and your options.”
Berrios has been a commissioner on the Board of Review since 1988. Prior to being elected five times to that post, heÂ served three terms as an Illinois state representative. He is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and Committeeman of the 31stÂ Ward. Berrios was the first Hispanic elected chairman of the party, a commissioner to the Board of Review and to the Illinois General Assembly.”