Outsider to Review Cook County Assessment Process

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears on Chicago Tonight on June 22.Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears on Chicago Tonight on June 22.

The president of the Cook County Board says the county assessor has agreed to an outside evaluation of the property tax assessment process.

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Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she and embattled Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, a close political ally, have agreed to bring in a third party reviewer, although they don’t know yet who that will be.

The decision to review how assessments are conducted comes in the wake of a Chicago Tribune investigation that found the county’s property tax system regularly overvalues properties in poor and minority areas, and undervalues properties in wealthier areas. 

Berrios has defended the practices of his office, saying that claims of a regressive system are unfounded.

“Every property tax assessment system ought to be fair and equitable” Preckwinkle said during an interview Thursday on Chicago Tonight. “The assessment process across the country is complicated and nuanced. I’ve had conversations with Assessor Berrios and he and I have agreed to have a third party look at our entire tax system and try to figure out how we can improve it.”

In a statement, Berrios confirmed the plan.

“President Preckwinkle and I agree that an independent third party will look at and evaluate the county’s current assessment models,” he said. “The third party will also evaluate new, developing or proposed models which others may be working on. The Assessor’s Office always strives to assess property as fairly and as close to market value as possible. We will continue to strive for that. We will also continue to support the right of taxpayers to appeal to our office or the Cook County Board of Review.”

But in her statements to Chicago Tonight, Preckwinkle acknowledges the possibility that the assessment system is discriminatory toward minorities and the poor, and has vowed to get moving on a review in the next few weeks.

“We’re exploring that process and have contacted folks and asked them for help,” she said. “We’ll be able to identify an entity that will do this work for us, or we will put a process in place to choose such an entity.”

Preckwinkle also said she believes Berrios should be transparent about how the process works and acquiesce to Freedom of Information Act requests seeking that data.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

Related stories:

Groups Seek Investigation into Cook County Property Tax System

June 21: A coalition of community groups is asking for an investigation into the Cook County property tax assessment system run by Assessor Joseph Berrios.

Joseph Berrios: Cook County Assessments ‘Fair and Accurate’

June 12: Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios is pushing back on a series of reports by the Chicago Tribune questioning the accuracy and fairness of his office.

Tribune: Cook County Property Assessments ‘Fundamentally Flawed’

June 8: An extensive Chicago Tribune investigation claims the county’s property tax system favors the rich over the poor. The Tribune reporter and a representative from the Cook County Assessor’s Office join us in discussion.

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