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Don’t Blame Assessor Berrios For Skyrocketing Property Tax Bills

Chicago home and condominium owners who have been hit with hefty property tax increases due August 1st shouldn’t blame Cook County Assessor Joseph C. Berrios.

The assessor and his staff were just doing their job, said Tom Shaer, Deputy Cook County Assessor for Communications.

As the economy recovers from the Great Recession, real estate values in Chicago and Cook County have grown substantially in market value. “So, naturally assessed value has increased,” Shaer said.

Assessed value is the partial property market value amount on which taxes are computed when applying local tax rates and the “equalizer,” which is designed to level assessments across the state of Illinois, Shaer explained.

The Illinois Department of Revenue lowered the 2015 equalization factor of 2.6685 for Cook County. The 2014 equalization factor was 2.7253. The department is required by law to calculate the factor, also called the “multiplier,” to achieve uniform property assessment throughout the state.

The revenue department determines the final equalization factor for each county by comparing the actual selling price of individual properties, over a three-year period, with the assessed value placed on those properties by the county assessor and adjusted by the board of review.

Assessor Berrios does not decide property taxes or the dollar amount of a real estate tax bill. His job is only to determine fair market value of your property. Local tax rates and the state equalizer used to compute your tax bill are set by cities, townships and the State of Illinois.

“Tax rates and the equalizer are separate from property assessment and are not determined by the assessor,” Shaer explained. “The assessor determines only a fair market value for your property based on comparable properties in your neighborhood.”

Residential property is assessed on 10 percent of its market value, while industrial and commercial property is assessed on 25 percent of its value.

“The 12.7-percent growth in average assessed value for a single-family home in Chicago was not an increase in one year,” Shaer noted.

“The growth in value occurred over a three-year calculation period of 2012 through 2015 for the most recent triennial reassessment. The previous triennial covered 2009 through 2011—the worst period of the real estate market collapse.”

With the home resale market now healthier and more new-construction homes being built prices and value have increased. Therefore, assessments have grown, just as they declined during the down market of previous years.

If a homeowner feels his or her property’s assessed valuation is too high, Berrios encourages them to appeal the assessed valuation. “Our goal is the fairest valuation of your home,” Shaer said.

What can a property owner do to control real estate assessment increases and tax hikes? First check how your property’s assessed valuation compares with similar properties in your neighborhood.

Visit the assessor’s website:, or call 312-443-7550 to find comparable properties. The assessor has streamlined the appeal process and has increased the number of community workshops to more than 125 per year. There is no fee for appealing your assessed valuation and you do not need to hire an attorney to file an appeal on a residential property.

Also check to see if the assessor has listed all the exemptions for which you are eligible, such as the Homeowners Exemption, Senior Citizen Exemption, and Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption. These exemptions can save you hundreds of dollars in taxes.

“Two important grounds for a reduction are finding a significant error in the description of your property, or lack of uniformity, which means your home’s assessment is not in line with the assessed valuation of other similar homes in your neighborhood,” noted Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate lawyer who specializes in tax appeals.

The Assessor also grants reductions based on the evaluations approach. Homeowners may file an appeal and submit a recent closing statement for their home and/or purchase prices of homes similar to yours to show that the assessed value is greater than 10 percent of the purchase price.

If you feel you have grounds for a reduction, file an appeal with the Assessor or the Board of Review. The appeals can be filed in person at either office or at either office’s website.

If an initial appeal at the Assessor’s office does not lower the assessed value, there are two other appeal options: the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542), and the Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076).

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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