Cook County Clerk David Orr Issues Statement Regarding Lawsuit Against Assessor’s Office

David Orr
December 14, 2017
Statement from the Clerk
Real Estate and Tax

An explosive lawsuit filed this morning in Cook County Circuit Court alleges, among other items, that Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios “systematically and illegally shifts residential property tax burdens in Cook County from property owners in majority-white neighborhoods to majority-Hispanic and majority African-American neighborhoods” as well as from the rich to the poor.

We saw this coming. 

As Cook County Clerk, my office plays a major role in the calculation of Cook County property taxes. I remain frustrated at the blatant secrecy, lack of transparency and direction from the Assessor’s office regarding residential, commercial and industrial property tax assessments and why this ongoing issue has not yet been appropriately addressed.

Experts have already spent countless hours studying the assessment process and developing stronger models, so we know what the problems are. Three substantive studies have already been conducted: a 2011 study by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; a University of Chicago analysis commissioned by the Assessor in 2014 and funded by the MacArthur Foundation; and the Chicago Tribune investigation. 
Berrios’s office acknowledged the problems several years ago, and in 2015, publicly touted a model he claimed would fix the regressivity issues. 

We now know that was not true.

The new model was either partially or never implemented. No one outside of the Assessor’s office truly knows for sure because they have refused to tell the public what assessment model they are using.

Meanwhile, the Assessor has already completed all assessments for the 2017 tax year, subject only to review by the Board of Review, laying the foundation for the 2017 tax bills.

Assessment decisions lay the foundation for property taxes. The Clerk calculates tax rates for hundreds of taxing districts each year based on equalized assessments located within each district and the amount of revenue requested by those districts. The only key factor that is “fluid” is the assessment. Our calculations are transparent and mathematically precise. 

As an elected official with a fiduciary duty to calculate tax rates and amounts included in tax bills issued by the Treasurer, it is difficult and painful to execute those duties based on flawed assessments. 

David Orr,
Cook County Clerk