Resolution would create special state task force on property tax appeals
House Joint Resolution 69 would create a special task force to investigate and report on state and local property tax assessment, appeals processes and other property tax policies.
A joint resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives would create a task force to investigate and report on property tax assessment, appeals and other state and local tax policies that adversely affect property owners across the state. The task force would seek to make assessments more equitable and efficient.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, filed House Joint Resolution 69 in June and serves as the resolution’s chief sponsor. The resolution has broad bipartisan support with more than two dozen co-sponsors. Senate Joint Resolution 45, a similar measure, was filed in the Senate by state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville.
The proposed task force would have its work cut out for it, especially in Cook County.
How the task force works
HJR 69’s task force would include the governor or his designee, the secretary of the Illinois Department of Revenue or a designee, four members of the Illinois House, to be appointed by legislative leadership, and four more members appointed by the governor from the public or private sector. Further staffing and administrative support would be provided by the Department of Revenue.
The task force’s members would be unpaid, and their mission would be to study “issues of assessment equity and fairness, and make recommendations that will ensure accountable and efficient delivery of uniform and transparent property valuations for property tax purposes.”
In addition to this broad purpose, the proposed task force would also study tax increment financing, or TIF, districts and their effect on local property taxes and assessed values; review state laws that relate to property tax assessment, including appeals at the state and local levels; review the equity impact of statewide assessment systems and computer-assisted mass appraisal systems; and look for ways to consolidate or create assessment jurisdictions, among other tasks.
After completing its study, the proposed task force would prepare a final report for the governor and General Assembly with policy recommendations to make the assessment process fairer.
Berrios scandal, political clout
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios is under heavy scrutiny after a Chicago Tribune investigation uncovered deep inequities in his office’s property valuations. The Cook County assessor’s office would regularly lowball expensive properties while overvaluing lower-priced homes, according to the Tribune. Berrios also serves as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, a position that gives him significant political sway.
This latest scandal is not the first appearance of impropriety coming from the assessor’s office. In addition to his job as Cook County assessor, Berrios has also been a co-owner of a consulting company that has lobbied state lawmakers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Maintaining friendly relationships with lawmakers such as House Speaker Mike Madigan is critical for such work. Likewise, Madigan is a partner in a Chicago-based real estate law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner. Madigan & Getzendanner lawyers regularly go to the Cook County assessor’s office to appeal property valuations for clients, which include major financial institutions and other companies. Each successful appeal can save a client a significant amount of money.
And it’s not just the speaker.
Like Madigan, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, runs a law firm specializing in Cook County property tax appeals. State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, both practice law at firms that handle Cook County property tax appeals, and often have to go through Berrios’ office to seek lower valuations for their clients.
HJR 69 could go a long way toward ensuring these potential conflicts of interest do not go ignored.