Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi urged residents at a meeting in Evanston Thursday evening to support two bills in the state legislature he says would reform the assessment process.

One, HB2217, would require owners of income producing property to submit income and expense data for the property to the assessor’s office each year.

Kaegi said that now property owners only provide such information when they appeal assessments that have already been issued, so the assessor “can’t use that information to inform the assessments of everyone else.

He says the bill has Rep. Robyn Gabel of Evanston as a cosponsor and Sen. Laura Fine, who represents Evanston, is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, SB1379.

He also said he’s backing a different bill in the legislature that would remove the requirement added several years ago that makes homeowners reapply each year for tax exemptions available to senior citizens.

“It’s bonkers that you have to re-certify each year that you’re still over 65 years old,” Kaegi said.

“Computers can be taught to talk to each other,” he added. “Some computer knew my mom died withing a couple of weeks,” and that information can be shared automatically with the assessors office.

The change to require annual applications for the senior exemptions had been enacted after complaints arose that heirs of deceased homeowners never bothered to inform the assessor’s office that they were no longer eligible for the exemption. 

Speaking to more than 100 people at a meeting of the Central Street Neighbors Association, Kaegi said he also planned to reform assessor’s offices practices that have given commercial property owners an incentive to keep their properties vacant.

He said it’s not appropriate to let owners select their vacancy rate when determining assessments and that he will set assessments based on the overall market level of occupancy for a particular class of property, regardless of the actual occupancy level of an individual property.

“It will take a copule of years to transition to doing that,” he said, “but I think it will help stimulate investment” in Evanston and in communities across Cook County.

Kaegi, who took office Dec. 3 with promises to end patronage and favoratism and reform the assessing system said he’ll issue a report next week on his first 100 days in office.

Related story

Tax assessment hikes vary widely by neighborhood (3/26/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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