The COVID-19 pandemic has been an earthquake for Cook County’s system of property assessments, upon which property tax bills are based. In the race for the Cook County Board of Review District 1 seat, Republican Dan Patlak has a clearer idea of what needs to be done to get assessments in line with how property values have changed than his Democratic opponent, property tax appeals lawyer Tammy Wendt. Wendt is too comfortable with the current overall system, which is insufficiently transparent.
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi has been working to align property assessments with the change in property values caused by the pandemic. The Cook County Board of Review hears appeals of Kaegi’s work and has been criticized for undermining Kaegi and being less than transparent in its decisions, which affect every property taxpayer. We endorse Patlak in the Nov. 3 election because he is less openly opposed to Kaegi’s efforts and because, of the board’s three commissioners, he is the only Republican. The board needs a check on Democratic hegemony.
Patlak’s experience includes 10 years as a commissioner and seven prior years as an assessment appeals analyst. He worked to create the Board of Review’s first Freedom of Information Act page on the board’s website, making it easier to request information.
Cook County’s assessment system is broken, with nearly a quarter of a million appeals filed last year, bogging the system down and diverting money from schools and parks into legal fees. Moreover, too many dollars from property tax lawyers who appear before the Board of Review find their way into the commissioners’ campaign coffers, which unfortunately alarms neither of these candidates. We’re not holding our breath, but Patlak holds out the better hope of improving the system.
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