Andrea Raila: Candidate for Cook County Assessor

WTTW’s 2018 Voters’ Guide to the Cook County Primary is an online resource designed to inform voters about the candidates running for office in the March 20 election.

Candidates were given two minutes to tell voters where they stand on the issues, why they feel they are best qualified and what they intend to do if elected or re-elected. The messages were recorded at the WTTW studios at no cost to the candidates. The Voters’ Guide is an online version of Candidate Free Time, pioneered by WTTW in the 1992 race for U.S. Senate. This year’s Candidate Free Time is produced with and underwritten in part by the League of Women Voters of Cook County.

About this office: Cook County Assessor

The Cook County Assessor establishes a process for fair and accurate property assessments within Cook County, seeks equitable tax policies, and communicates information about property assessments and taxation to the public.

About this candidate:

Name: Andrea Raila
DOB: January 21, 1959
Residence: Chicago
Family: married to Michael Rohrbeck with 3 children – Christopher, Reah, Rianna
Occupation: Property Tax Analyst and Tax Payer Advocate
Political Experience: I am a former civil servant decision maker with the Cook County Board of (Tax Appeals) Review, personally responsible for analyzing real estate tax data to determine tax appeal outcomes, research and established neighborhood vacancy rates, operating expenses and capitalization rates for better multi-family and commercial valuation standards.

Lead organizer for the first successful repeal of a Special Service District (SSA 46) tax that had been erroneously calculated and collected.

Leader in Vote Yes for a Constitutional Convention (Con Con in 1988 & 2008), circulated hundreds of petitions and collected thousands of signatures for candidates and advisory and binding referendums, such as the Citizens Utility Board, taxpayer and consumer issues, term limitations, ballot access issues (see People vs. DiGuida supported by the Chicago Tribune).

Longtime member of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Tax Policy Committee, member Illinois Women’s Property Tax Association, Institute for Professionals in Taxation and former appointee to the Washington Administration's first Taxpayer Advocate Office.

Initiator of numerous property tax reform laws that the past 3 county assessors actively or passively fought against. These laws advance businesses’ and homeowners’ property tax fairness and became law because I worked effectively with legislators:

• Requires Assessor to cancel homestead exemptions following a sale of the home so taxpayers will not get an erroneous exemption penalty through no fault of their own.

• Allows homeowners to notify the Assessor that they no longer occupy their unsold home so that they avoid getting an automatic unqualified exemption(s) and risk erroneous exemption back tax bill(s).

• Allows taxpayers who receive omitted back tax bills the right to have 5 months to pay instead of 30 days.

• Strengthens taxpayers’ rights in back taxation bills requires timely notice by Assessor; reduced the number of back tax years for payment from 10 years to 3-4 years; and grants right to tax appeals for back taxes the homeowner or business owner believe are too excessive based on over valuation.

• Requires taxing agents of Special Service Districts (SSA) to give businesses proper notice and better hearing rights to oppose tax levy increases.

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

I propose a realistic vision for the rehabilitation of the Cook County property tax system that Kaegi and Berrios do not have:

Taxpayers’ confidence in tax assessment fairness is best achieved through open non-politically sponsored tax information sessions and online systems that disclose the data and methodology used to create market values. Our volume of tax appeals is excessive because tax assessments are poorly understood, are unfair, and practitioners before the assessor are allowed limitless contributions.

The increased volume of tax appeals takes a heavy toll on the public administration of a fair tax appeal system. The internal outdated assessment systems and political environment hinder just and fair property tax decisions for many. County assessors and tax appeal boards face fewer resources and struggle with faster deadlines. Appeal boards are overwhelmed with weak or frivolous appeals.

Full disclosure of internal Assessor audits, answering all public freedom of information requests, especially assessor field inspector reports, providing online property record cards and detailed assessment data and removing the requirement for tax practitioners to pay $5,000 every year to obtain public information are needed. Homeowners should be able to go online to see the property records card, and sales data used to create their own market values.

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

The most important projects crucial to advancing the Assessor’s Office into the 21st century are the implementation of the more accurate MacArthur assessment formula, empowering our 38 township assessors and the Board of Review with valuation and equalization authority, and the implementation of a Digital Appeals Processing System (DAPS).

A DAPS system was implemented by the Cook County Board of Review in 2015. After three years the DAPS system streamlined the tax appeal process, demonstrating its value and efficiency while curbing favoritism and errors.

The Assessor’s office should be a platform to advocate for significant Illinois property tax changes for such a regressive tax on which we are far too over reliant.

As a former Cook County and city of Chicago employee I saw first-hand how government can work for the better but only if there is transparency, accountability, and best business practices at play---instead of the pay-to-play arena that too many elected officials and public policy makers have ignored.

I promise to place limits on our triennial reassessment increases. And while at it, perhaps we should be considering an appointed Cook County Assessor in the future.

Candidate Statement

Hello, my name is Andrea Raila. I'm running for Cook County Assessor. Here is where I stand on the issues.

Best Practices:

• Bringing in the new reassessment formula that if most equitable and fair to all communities

• No nepotism and a ban on contribution from professional who do business with the assessor’s office

• Capping triennial reassessment increases to 15%

I am the most qualified candidate because I have 27 years of professional property tax assessment experience. I worked at the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, helping tax payers with their property tax problems.

I worked under the Harold Washington administration Property Tax payers’ advocacy office advocating for fair assessments on businesses and homeowners

I successfully ran a property tax and public policy consulting firm advocating for lower property taxes, reclaiming lost exemptions and advocating for laws that improved business and homeowners to have affordable and predictable property taxes, such as reducing back taxation from ten years down to three year and the demand for payment from 30 days to six months.

If I am elected to the office of Cook County Assessor, I want to institute best practices with a state of the art assessment formula by installing DAPS Digital assessment Processing System that makes the office function more efficiently at less costly.

I will implement a rigorous policy of no nepotism.

Fairly taxing downtown commercial properties so they remain nationally competitive, but still contribute their fair share to the funding of our public schools.

I know that it will take some time and resources, but we can rebuild the taxpayers confidence in our property tax system, which is at an all time low. We can make the property tax system fair and equitable for property owners from all communities regardless of economic background or housing stock.

On March 20, 2018, you know what to do. Punch 82.

See more candidates for Cook County assessor.

Return to our 2018 Voters’ Guide to the Cook County Primary

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