Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Kaegi’s actions should be scrutinized

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By Ray Hanania

Last year, a report was issued that showed that a major tax burden would slam commercial properties in Cook County.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi reassessed properties in 2021, claiming it would ease the burden on homeowners. But in fact, it has not. In fact, at Kaegi’s direction, assessments on residential properties have skyrocketed as much as 50% in some cases while commercial properties have only seen some increases.

Why, because Kaegi receives a lot of support from business people to get him re-elected to an office few homeowners understand.

Although I have lived in a stable community for years where property values have been consistent, only increasing slightly, Kaegi raised our assessment more than 25%. That assessment on my property will mean a significant hike in property taxes.

Kaegi can lie all he wants about the assessments and how homeowner properties have been deflated, but the dramatic increases he imposed without any outside oversight completely contradicts his 2021 lies.

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

Kaegi was elected in 2018 in the wake of the controversy defeating his predecessor Joe Berrios, who was under a cloud of controversy–including for taking thousands from attorneys who appeared before the Cook County Board of Review, (formerly called the Board of Tax Appeals, a name change intended to eliminate the office’s association with the word “tax.”)

So, people never had a chance to truly look at Kaegi’s background, focused only on the intense criticism against Berrios by the anti-Berrios news media. Kaegi has defined himself as a “reformer” and enjoys the news media blind spot, which softballs criticism of their own.

Four years later, Kaegi beat back a challenge from Democrat Kari Steele, the president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, who warned Kaegi planned to have massive property assessments hikes that would go “beyond the pale” and would be “harmful to taxpayers.”

Kaegi asserted then the county was down $2.7 billion in property assessments.

But Kaegi is the darling of the far left, who love to not only beat up on the wealthy, but include most middle-income homeowners as being a part of that “wealthy” category. Like the far left, he will do anything for his base, lower income homeowners who depend on excessively burdening the hard working average homeowners who can barely scrape by on today’s weak economy.

The far left claims the economy is growing, and the news media gives that lie a pass. But just talk to any middle-class homeowners today and they will tell you they are struggling as more and more burdens are put on their backs to cover those who are let into the country who have no jobs, no income, no healthcare and no way to feed themselves.

While they are struggling, Kaegi is getting more benefits from his office.

Earlier this year, Kaegi was able to give downtown commercial properties massive assessment cutbacks. Kaegi “reverted” property assessment hikes for 559 downtown Chicago businesses, saying he feels their pain. The move reduced assessments by more than $1 billion.

He knew that, which is why he has been focusing instead on increasing assessments for homeowners like you and me.

While homeowners like you and me have tried to appeal our assessment hikes, almost all have been rejected. But when 551 of the 559 downtown businesses appealed their assessment hikes, 439 got reductions.

What does it all mean? That homeowners who don’t have lobbyists are being forced to fill the $3.7 billion Kaegi claims were lost in property assessment appeals, mostly by commercial properties, in 2021.

While property homeowners are struggling with massive hikes in their assessments and increases in their property taxes, Kaegi’s property is going in the opposite direction. In June 2023, it was revealed that Kaegi’s Oak Park property assessment dropped significantly.

The Tribune reported Kaegi owns a million-dollar plus, 120-year-old Prairie-style, two-story home on a large corner lot adjacent to Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. The homes of his neighbors, like homes belonging to people like you and me, saw their assessments go up 32%.

Talk about being among the wealthy who need to pay more!

Kaegi challenged his own assessment, claiming his home was over assessed. So, he gave himself a reduction. Kaegi bought his home for more than $1 million in 2010, but somehow it dropped in value to only $750,000 10 years later.

I guess we should just believe him?

The Illinois General Assembly needs to look at the increase in property assessments by Kaegi’s office and voters need to remember all this when he comes up for re-election in 2026.

(Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. Visit hanania.com for more opinion.)

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