New Cook Tax Assessor Promises to Shine Light on Assessment Process

Flashlight. Icon included flashlight with light. Flashlight in flat style.Cook County’s tax assessor’s office is under new leadership, with the swearing in earlier this month of Fritz Kaegi, a former asset manager who has promised a new era of accountability for the office.

Former Assessor Joseph Berrios, who lost to Kaegi in the March primary election after eight years in office, faced mounting criticism of his office’s handling of the county’s property tax system, including a Chicago Tribune-Pro-Publica Illinois investigative series that described a murky system of assessments that left some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods paying a disproportionate share in property taxes. University researchers and independent analysts also documented a flawed process.

Kaegi, calling the old system a “relic of urban machine patronage politics,” has pledged to bring transparency to the process and adopt practices that will result in fairer and more accurate assessments. He has also promised to make data and assessment variables public, “so that people can check our work.” That includes an audit by the International Association of Assessing Officers, the Chicago Tribune reports.

New Assessor Brings a Background in Asset Management

Kaegi grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, according to his campaign biography. He went to Kenwood Academy High School, graduated from Haverford College and earned his MBA from Stanford in 2001. His wife, Rebecca, is a teacher. The couple has three children.

Kaegi began his career at several financial firms including Brunswick UBS Warburg and Morningstar before landing at Columbia Wanger Asset Management, where he spent 13 years.  He is a chartered financial analyst and a Certified Illinois Assessment Officer (CIAO), according to his campaign biography.

Among 25 new executives that Kaegi is bringing to the Tax Assessor’s Office are three new positions for managing data and property assessment models, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Other reforms that Kaegi has proposed include:

  • Automatic renewal of the senior exemption
  • Rotating analyst assignments for certain classes of properties
  • A ban on employees lobbying or doing business with the office for one year after leaving
  • Legislation to require commercial property owners to report income data annually

Don’t Pay More Property Taxes than You Should

While it’s encouraging to hear talk of making the system more fair, it is too soon to say exactly what new leadership will bring to the property tax process in Cook County. One thing that will not change, however, is the wisdom of thoroughly reviewing the assessed value of your property.

After applying for all exemptions to which you are entitled, appealing your assessment is the only way to be sure that you are not paying more than your fair share of property taxes. At Kensington, our clients have the benefit of data and assessment variables right now. We have decades of experience and a proprietary algorithm that can produce the comparable analysis you need to determine whether there is a case to be made for reducing your assessment.

You pay nothing for an initial analysis that will provide you with an estimate of your potential savings from a successful appeal. If our analysis does not find a basis for significant savings, we will not recommend an appeal. If we do assist you with an appeal, you pay nothing unless you win.

Call us today for a professional analysis of your property tax situation.

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