Cook Co. assessor defends property tax system after inequality allegations

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COOK COUNTY, Ill. -- Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios defended his property tax system on Tuesday, in response to claims his office overvalued low priced homes, and undervalued high priced ones.

Berrios admitted his office does assess homes differently in different neighborhoods. Some are calling it taxation without explanation.

Berrios didn’t answer that question on Tuesday. They talked about something called regressivity, which is another term for disparities in the way properties are valued and taxed.

The Chicago Tribune reported tax bills in Cook County give the wealthy tax breaks and poorer residents are often penalized. The assessor’s office touted a new way of doing things, a new model that was funded by the McArthur Foundation. But a Tribune investigation found the office never used the new model and Berrios admitted as much.

He said his office does the best they can but he did not say whether the way they do things is fair.

He admitted Cook County is not using a regressive property tax model to value its 1.5 million residential properties.

Berrios said they look at properties neighborhood by neighborhood. His critics said the system is hurting the working class and people who live in poor neighborhoods and is ripe for corruption.

Lawyers for the assessor’s office claimed case law prevents them from telling the public how the office comes up with property taxes.

There was some discussion Tuesday about changing the tax system. Berrios said he agrees there is a better way to do things.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle just announced a third party will do yet another study on the best methodology to use but there's no timeline on how long that will take or how much it could cost to overhaul the system.

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