Chicago Alderman Ed Burke seeks to cut Trump Tower property tax bill by $3 million
According to one estimate, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke is trying to cut the property tax bill for Trump Tower by more than $3 million.
The Trump Organization is trying to lower its Chicago property tax bill, and is looking to property tax attorney and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, to help.
Burke recently filed his sixth lawsuit on behalf of President Donald Trump’s business interests in an effort to win back millions of property tax dollars paid since 2009, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. One of the lawsuits has been dismissed, but the other five are still active.
Though the exact amount Burke is seeking is not clear, one estimate from state’s attorney’s documents indicate it could be more than $3 million.
This is not the first time Burke has played a part in Trump’s business.
In 2002, Burke, in his role as alderman, voted in favor of allowing the development of Trump Tower.
Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, has represented Trump since 2006. And had helped cut the property taxes on Trump International Hotel and Tower by nearly 40 percent as of 2016, according to the Sun-Times.
All in all, Klafter & Burke has saved Trump $14.1 million in property taxes by appealing valuations made by the Cook County Assessor’s Office.
But it didn’t end there.
Burke has also taken Trump’s case before the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board. In 2011, Burke sought a $6 million cut in Trump’s assessment that would’ve given the future president a tax refund of more than $1 million, according to the Sun-Times. In 2013, Burke went back to the board, this time fighting the $2.5 million Trump had to pay. And in every year since, Burke has filed lawsuits to get Trump’s taxes down.
But Burke isn’t the only Illinois politician who moonlights as a property tax appeals lawyer and Trump isn’t the only wealthy property owner benefiting from Cook County’s property tax system.
Klafter & Burke is just one of the cadre of Chicago-based law firms with political connections that handle Cook County property tax appeals.
The Cook County Assessor’s Office, headed up by Assessor Joe Berrios, calculates the value of each county property, which ultimately decides how much the owners owe in property taxes. Property owners can then appeal the assessor’s valuation in order to get their property tax bill reduced.
That’s where Burke and his ilk come in.
While there are multiple ways to fight Cook County property taxes, property owners can opt to hire one of the politically connected law firms in Cook County, such as Klafter & Burke or Madigan & Getzendanner, in order to appeal their valuations. And with two-thirds of all appeals resulting in a reduction, there’s a good chance of a return on investment.
However the Cook County property tax valuation scheme is hardly a victimless crime. As the politically connected win more appeals cases, the county’s property tax burden gets pushed downward. An investigation from the Chicago Tribune published in June revealed that the assessor’s office regularly lowballed the value of wealthy properties in Cook County, while overvaluing lower-income homes, resulting in an unequal property tax system that has hurt the poor to help the rich.
Trump’s choice of Burke – while indicative of the problem – is just the tip of the iceberg.