DuPage assessor says Cook too unwieldy to get assessments done right
Warren Dixon III is glad he doesn't have to deal with something as massive as Cook County.
"A jurisdiction the size of Cook County, in my opinion, is too large and not manageable," Dixon, the Naperville Township assessor, told the DuPage Journal.
Townships cover a smaller area than counties, making assessments much easier to perform, Dixon contends, adding that with that being the case, it's no wonder controversy has arisen over a Chicago Sun-Times article suggesting something is amiss in Chicago's county.
"I believe the smaller assessment jurisdiction is more accessible for discussions prior to final valuation by the assessor’s office," Dixon said. "I do not know of any corruption in the Cook County appeal process. I believe Assessor Joe Berrios and his staff do the best possible job in a jurisdiction of their immense size."
Not everyone agrees with Dixon's sentiment, though.
Berrios, the Cook County assessor, has allegedly allowed lower-income homes to be overvalued, forcing the owners to pay a much higher tax bill than they should, while undervaluing more affluent properties and leaving more money in the pockets of Cook County's wealthy.
"The folks Berrios really is serving are not homeowners, but tax attorneys," the Sun-Times said in an editorial. "All those appeals create big business for lawyers, which is why they pour millions of dollars in campaign contributions into political funds controlled by Berrios, who also is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. In 2015, when property assessment appeals hit a record high, attorneys’ fees from residential appeals totaled roughly $35 million."
Dixon, however, argued that the real fault lies not in any individual but in a lack of modernization. An area the size of Cook County should be leveraging the assistance of technology and updating its reporting system, he said.
Even on a percentage basis, however, DuPage County is well below Cook in its number of appeals, and Dixon credits the nearly 20 percentage-point difference to the fact that DuPage assessors take extra care to ensure assessments are done right the first time. They also strive to be transparent with taxpayers, giving them peace of mind and freedom to ask questions.
"I feel that the front-line elected assessor in DuPage County and their staffs produce a more accurate, fair, equitable and transparent valuation the first time," Dixon said. "The more accurate original valuation limit appeals from the start."
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