Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi Pushes for More Reform

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi says he wants more transparency within the property tax assessment system. Under his predecessor’s watch, that system was rife with errors and ethical concerns.

Specifically, Kaegi is supporting a proposed state bill requiring some commercial and residential property owners to annually report rent and property-related income and expenses.

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Kaegi said that if regularly provided, that information – currently only submitted on appeal – would help his office assess properties more accurately and give developers more information when considering land and project investments.

“We think it will de-risk our assessment system by providing more transparency and also encouraging investment in the county by being able to publish really accurate data on real estate market conditions,” Kaegi said. “Investors buy real estate for the income that it generates – not always, but most of the time. If anyone is buying real estate or lending against it, they care about that information and we care about what drives the market.”

Some property owners would be excluded from the requirement, which is punishable by fine.

In a Crain’s Chicago Business op-ed supporting the measure, Kaegi writes that “commercial properties with a market value under $400,000; and residential properties with six or fewer units, or with a market value under $1 million” are exempt.

Kaegi, a former mutual fund manager, unseated his predecessor Joe Berrios last year after a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation uncovered a regressive property tax assessment system that over-assessed homes in lower-income areas, creating a greater tax burden for those property owners, while under-assessing homes in more affluent neighborhoods.

Following that investigation, a report by University of Chicago public policy professor Christopher Berry estimated $2.2 billion was transferred from under-valued properties to over-valued properties from 2011 to 2015.

Kaegi joins us to reflect on his first few months in office and future plans for the county’s property tax assessment system.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia

Related stories:

How Fritz Kaegi Plans to Transform the Cook County Assessor’s Office

Fritz Kaegi Beats Democratic Machine in Cook County Assessor’s Race

Assessor’s Office Officials in Hot Seat Over ‘Regressive’ System

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