To the Editor:
The Letter to the Editor from Chuck Thurow published on Nov. 25 was interesting and provocative. Unfortunately, it also was missing a key fact, contained errors and reflected an apparent lack of familiarity with property assessment in Cook County. Please allow some information and clarification from the Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO).
Omitted by Mr. Thurow is the extremely important fact that his home’s market value increased tremendously since it was last assessed in 2012. Happily for him, his neighborhood, Kenwood, benefitted from the best growth in value among homes in Hyde Park Township. Obviously, greater Estimated Fair Market Value requires an increase in Assessed Value (AV).
Assessment of property in Cook County is not “opaque and clearly broken.” In fact, CCAO uses specific metrics, factors and policies, all on the public record, to approximate the market value on which each AV is calculated. Factors include square footage of property and living space, type of building, number of bedrooms, additions and market-based data such as sales, etc.
There are no secrets, nothing opaque. Assessment history and essential data for each property is on www.cookcountyassessor.com and www.cookcountypropertyinfo.com. The 25.2% increase shown for Kenwood, more for Mr. Thurow’s property, is not unusual for three years with such a desirable area in the rebounding real estate market. For him and many others, the good news is their home is worth more; the bad news is their home is worth more. Thus, AV correctly rises.
The median AV for all of Hyde Park Township rose only 12.59% since 2012. To say CCAO’s assessments are “arbitrary and willfully high” is utter nonsense. Residential assessments are driven primarily by years of sales, and this agency does not ignore facts or seek to raise assessed value. Further, the Assessor has no control of tax rates and multipliers set by municipalities and the state to compute tax bills.
Assessor Berrios insists on transparency. He made appealing AV easier and more open, not to aid “[supposedly] connected lawyers” but because a vibrant appeal process double-checks and maintains the integrity and fairness of an assessment. He is committed to ensuring no one pays more than his or her fair share of property taxes. Importantly, homeowners don’t even need attorneys to win appeals.
Mr. Thurow “…hope[s] that Berrios can explain [sic] and that it makes sense.” That has been done here. Preconceived, unsubstantiated rhetoric is convenient and sensational but it serves only to misinform and confuse honorable taxpayers, of whom we trust Mr. Thurow is one.
Deputy Assessor for Communications
Office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios