Fritz Kaegi Finally Fixed Cook County's Broken Property Tax System

I’ve never been impressed with any of Illinois’ politicians but Fritz Kaegi, the Cook County Assessor since 2018, is the exception to that rule. He inherited a seriously broken system from Joe Berrios and has completely turned it around. I believe the end result will be extremely good news for Chicago homeowners who need to note that this guy is on the primary ballot on June 28.
Let me digress for a moment to address those of you who think I’m nuts for declaring good news for Chicago homeowners when you just saw your assessed value go up by…whatever percent. First, I’m going to ask you if the assessed value is wrong. If it’s totally far fetched then you should appeal it and you will probably win. If not then you deserve a higher assessed value. Second, I’m going to remind you of something I’ve repeatedly pointed out in these blog posts: an X% increase in your assessed value does not mean your taxes are going up X%. Assessed values determine the allocation of the County and city’s budget, which are in no way influenced by the assessed values. In other words, if everyone’s assessed value goes up by 75% and the budget stays the same then everyone’s property taxes stay the same.
Now, back to the story. The assessor’s office was an abomination under Berrios. My blog posts on specific properties would routinely call out property taxes that were grossly out of whack – almost always high end properties that were assessed at a fraction of their market value.
The results were so awful that the Chicago Tribune published a pair of exposes in 2017 on the discrepancies embedded in the system based on analyses by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. A June article confirmed my suspicions that high end properties were under assessed while low end properties were over assessed. They followed up in December with another article that demonstrated that the tax burden was also unfairly weighted towards homeowners and away from commercial and industrial properties.
Kaegi addressed both of these problems during his term. I’m not finding whacko valuations any more. However, the other thing I like about this guy is that he has also been a model of transparency, sharing some great data on the impact of his work – and you know how much I like data.
The latest gem I found is this Chicago 2021 reassessment dashboard on the assessor’s site which allows you to look at what changed by property type and community area. Here are a few takeaways from that data:

  • The total of all property values went up by 31%. So if your assessed value went up by less than that you are probably getting a bit of a tax cut.
  • The total of residential property values went up by only 10% and that includes some new construction. So the average older home’s assessed value probably went up by less than 10%.
  • The total of non-residential property values went up by 56%.
  • Those last two facts also mean that the tax burden got shifted away from homes and towards non-residential properties.
  • If you go to the map and select residential you will see that the tax burden also got shifted from lower income neighborhoods to upper income neighborhoods. So the Lower West Side saw a 51% increase in their total assessed value while Riverdale saw a 40% drop.
  • Since I live in West Town I’ll point out that the total of residential values went up by 20%.

So there’s the evidence that the two biggest problems of the Berrios dynasty have been laid to rest. That’s why I like this Kaegi guy even though my assessed value went up by 50%. Yeah, I’ve got a guy working on it.
#PropertyTaxes #ChicagoPropertyTaxes #FritzKaegi
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service real estate brokerage that offers home buyer rebates and discount commissions. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market or get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.

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