Pilsen, Little Village community seek relief from Cook County property tax hike

Chicago News

COOK COUNTY, Ill. — The second round of Cook County property taxes will be shipped this week, causing some residents and businesses to brace for another case of sticker shock. 

Juan Giron, owner of a bookstore in Pilsen, says his property taxes have increased from $26,000 to $85,000 overnight.

“And when we have asked the assessor how this happens, he really has no response,” Giron said.

As the 2021 re-assessments and 2020 tax bills begin to show up in resident’s mailboxes, one local asserted that “property tax assessments have gone up astronomically.”

In an exclusive interview with WGN Investigates, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas declared:

“We found in our last study that over a period of time, people are now paying more over a 10-year period in property taxes than they did for the house. And that’s wrong.”

Yet Cook County assessor Frtiz Kaegi believes that the booming housing market and dramatically increasing market values won’t necessarily translate to higher bills for residents – especially if surrounding neighborhood home values rose as well.

“Residential tax bills on average were only up 1%,” he said.

In Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods on Monday, residents called on the Cook County Assessor’s Office to extend the appeals deadline to the end of the year and re-evaluate all properties that have seen an assessment increase of 25% or more. But they worry there is no political will to make changes, especially in Springfield. Worse, they feel the burden disproportionately falls on Black and Latino neighborhoods where assessments have increased 300%, sometimes up to 800% in just a year. 

“We need changes immediately,” said Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Ward). “We are extremely concerned about the fact this is a community that is already struggling in the middle of a pandemic.” 

Kaegi says he’s working on a resolution.

“Making sure we’re re-balancing the tax base, so that more reflects where market values are so that homeowners are bearing less of the burden than they were under [ex-Cook County Assessor Joe] Berrios and we’ve really followed through on that.” 

Kaegi said it also means properly assessing large commercial properties so the county can take on more of the burden. But in Pilsen, that has meant the mom-and-pop bookstore was assessed like an Amazon distribution center.

“How is that possible?” Giron asked. “How is it possible that we’re going to have to pay over $7,000 a month?” 

Kaegi adds that he is working on big reform efforts, noting that there may be potential errors on individual levels because of data issues, which is why people are encouraged to file appeals. 

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