An in-depth study by the Chicago Tribune finds that Cook County’s property tax assessment system unfairly penalizes the poor while giving tax breaks to the rich.

The map above shows the four census tracts in Evanston with the greatest disparities identified in the Tribune study.

Properties in census tract 8092 in west Evanston were overvalued by 9.8%, the paper found, while properties in census tract 8102 in south Evanston were overvalued by 6.4 percent.

By contrast, properties in census tract 8098 were undervalued by 17.1 percent while properties in tract 8103.02 were undervalued by 9.2 percent.

The other 14 census tracts in Evanston ranged from 0.6 percent overvalued to 8.2 percent undervalued, Most north shore suburbs had no over-valued tracts and even more undervalued ones

The Tribune found even greater disparities in other parts of the county — especially in the City of Chicago where the vast majority of census tracts were either dramatically under or over-valued and the pattern was strongly correlated with race and income levels.

The report sharply criticized County Assessor Joseph Berrios for failing to implement a new assessment system which the paper says could have dramatically reduced the discrepancies.

It also argues that the property tax appeal process tends to increase the income-based disparities because more well-to-do taxpayers are more likely to appeal and win tax reductions,

Original story

If you’re interested in appealing your tax assessment, the City of Evanston has an Assessment Review Office that can help with the process. More information is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. UP

    Not counting the D65 cash grab, my assessment is up 34% over the previous year. But the county knows I will not file appeal because they know that I’ll be taking the senior freeze (at pre 34% increase) which prohibits appeals on my part but will include the D65 cash grab. To bad that D65 decided to punish senior citizens.

    1. Senior freeze?
      Is that some pre-war perk for indigent elders? Perhaps we should all get the freeze. Better yet, no more perks for over-indulged Boomers. You got lucky with your era of birth. No more free passes based on age. That’s another pension-era sweetheart deal we can no longer pretend to pay for.

      1. Senior freeze

        Hi Paying,

        You could learn more about the senior freeze exemption here. Only seniors with a gross household income of $55,000 or less qualify.

        It’s been in effect at least since 1994, long before the first boomers qualified for it in 2011.

        If you live long enough and lose out in life’s lottery of riches, one day you may qualify for it too.

        — Bill

  2. I’m not sure everyone fully

    I’m not sure everyone fully appreciates the absolute injustice being done here — this is akin to stealing from the poor to give to the rich.  

    So much is written about the cycle of poverty, and this simply perpetuates it.  And yet this is essentially the same population whom the democrats running the property tax process target for votes in each election — emphasizing the class warfare angle.  

    How ironically tragic that these people have been suffering at the hands of the elected officials they trusted to help them.  And yet nothing will change.

  3. CCA

    I have been bothered by this for years and have constantly asked how do we help? The senior & senior freeze exemption form are beyond confusing when they come in the mail and they must be done yearly. So many seniors do not understand that let alone the imbalance in their taxes. How do we help? I was told one way to reach out is through the churches. 

  4. Berrios & Madigan are tied at the hip

    Is it a surprise to know of the complex and interwoven nature of the Berrios & Madigan relationship?

    Are people surprised that the Real Estate tax system in Cook County is unfair and corrupted by our electected politicians?

    Are people surprised to know that Madigan has collected millions of dollars during his career representing his clients when they appeal their real estate taxes and that Berrios oversees this whole operation? 

    Are people sick and tired of this BS?

    But the question is, “What can be done”?

    P.S. i will continue to pay for my Chicago Tribune subscription in order to fund investigative journalism

  5. Such a flawed study…
    First of all, let me address the headline and the corresponding Evanston heat-map: rich west of Ridge Ave? really?

    I’d expect Bill to have more local knowledge even if he lacks statistics credentials. And I expect Tribune journalists to have even less of both.

    The only way to gauge overvalued vs undervalued assessment is through sales prices per square foot and by class. When there’s a mix of properties in various states of disrepair and rehabilitation, how easy is it to skew the per square foot benchmark?

    Real estate is not my specialty, but I’d guess that low income properties are overbid during the gentrification phase of a neighborhood.

    So, to be fair, according to Tribune, assessors office needs to be able to predict prices into the future. Of course, then they wouldn’t be assessors they would become investors.

    1. Map reading

      Hi X.M.,

      It seems you don’t know how to read a headline or a map.

      Otherwise you would see that the map — which shows the greatest over-assessment in two of Evanston’s poorest neighborhoods — clearly supports the headline.

      The point of the rest of your comment would appear to be that there is no way to determine whether assessments are accurate. If true, that would mean the assessor’s work would be impossible for anyone to evaluate, which would surely be a dreadful state of affairs in a democracy.

      — Bill

      1. Tax breaks to the rich…

        Bill, I’m sorry – I should’ve said “lead sentence” instead of “headline”: “penalizes the poor while giving tax breaks to the rich.” The most advantaged blocks are not along the Lake, but west of Chicago and majorly between Ridge and Dempster – correct? But yes, assessors do not have to be correct in forecasting the pricing trends, they only need to be somewhat methodical. Which is exactly why we, as people, need to minimize taxation burden on everyone by reducing the government scope and size. Then disparities like these would not be so dramatic in relation to people’s incomes or property values.

        1. Rich

          Would you agree that northeast Evanston — census tract 8088 — is, relatively speaking, a rich neighborhood? The Tribune report says it was under-assessed by 8 percent … compared to west Evanston tract 8092 being over-assessed by nearly 10 percent.

          — Bill

        2. Tribune Sunday 6/11/17 support this
          The article is about comparing property in Cook County and rich [Wilmette, Winettka] and lower income communities.
          Evanston Review publishes valuations when new Assessed Valuation are done. You only have to compare properties to see how bad the valuations are. Properties [middle and upper] in seemingly ‘lesser’ proposperious area have higher valuations than you can clearly see for larger, better looking and known more ‘wealthy’/safer neighborhoods. Some has to due to less frequent sales not showing what those properties are now worth. Other properties show no way these valuations reflect reality–aside from any ‘funny business’ you suspect by the Assessor. Even if you show the Assessor your property has a higher Assessed valuation than clearly better properties in better/safer neighborhoods, they deny the evidence.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *