This is the year properties in the South Suburbs will be reassessed and Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi promises a fair examination of both residential and commercial properties.
“The key thing to remember is every community is different. We know south suburban conditions can be very different from north suburbs. And each area of the South Suburbs can be so different,” Kaegi told the Chronicle during a Jan. 25 interview in Homewood.
“We know on the residential side, high tax rates in the South Suburbs are something that really influences home prices,” he noted. “We know that a lot of foreclosure activity, a lot of homes under water, the value of the mortgages is greater than what it was sold for. We know some people are not paying their taxes and that’s a burden on those that do, and so these are things that we have to take in account, and our team is doing that on the residential side.
“On the commercial side, we know there’s lots of vacancies. We know that the taxes really affect commercial, too. Competition from Indiana and Will (County) raises the stakes for us to get this right,” Kaegi added.
Properties are reassessed every three years. The southern Cook County reassessment will extend from River Forest on the north to Bloom Township on the south. Assessor’s office staff is looking at Thornton, Bremen, Rich and Bloom Townships now. Property owners can expect to receive notices of the reassessment between the end of June and mid-August. The new assessments will be used for the 2021 tax bills.
“We believe that the more predictable, more accurate our assessments are that will help people make more investment decisions,” Kaegi said.
It’s been a year since he took over the assessor’s office, which he described as the largest office of its kind in the country. He has been working with professionals from Los Angeles, Philadelphia and other areas of the country and the state to learn how their assessment systems work and borrow from them techniques that can improve the Cook County system.
“We brought in as head of our commercial (assessments) someone who ran lending for a major bank. We brought in good data science people who are doing good work,” Kaegi said.
The assessor’s office has a 236-person staff. Of those, 95 work in the valuations department, and 25 of those go out into the field to physically assess properties.
When the assessment statement arrives, Kaegi said: “The first thing to see is did we accurately assess the price of your home. If it seems likes it’s wrong, (check) did we get the characteristics of your home right. This can happen. People have made us aware of problems with data.
“If it’s wrong, you can appeal by correcting it and then asking us to re-do our evaluation to correct it and then people also can follow the appeals process as well. That’s why the appeals process is there,” he said.
“It’s 100 percent true that you know more about your home than us. We are doing a mass appraisal of millions of properties at a time using a computer model with raw data of transactions that have taken place. Some of the materials about homes may be depressed.”
In addition, Kaegi said the office has made changes to better serve the public, including a new website, new call center and new ways to file online appeals and online exemptions.
“I know people are counting on us, so we never forget,” he added. “We deserve to have as good a system as the rest of the country does, and we have a road map to get there. It takes a few years to get there, but we’re on our way.”