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A short war: Foxx ends Yarbrough-Kaegi fight that threatened to delay Cook County tax bills

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough had delayed doing the calculations on taxes, citing a Sun-Times report on errors with ‘senior freeze’ assessments. Bills will be due Oct. 1.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough will go ahead with calculating property taxes after getting an opinion from State’s Attorney Kim Foxx that said “the clerk lacks authority to refuse to calculate rates and extend taxes on certified assessments . . . even if she believes the assessments may contain errors.”
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough will go ahead with calculating property taxes after getting an opinion from State’s Attorney Kim Foxx that said “the clerk lacks authority to refuse to calculate rates and extend taxes on certified assessments . . . even if she believes the assessments may contain errors.”
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

A fight between two elected Cook County officials that threatened to delay the mailing of property tax bills has ended.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said Wednesday her staff will start calculating the taxes owed by each of 1.77 million taxpayers after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx found there was no legal reason to delay the process.

Yarbrough had said Friday she wouldn’t go ahead with that because of concerns that Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s staff had inaccurately calculated property assessments for homeowners whose assessments are frozen under a senior assessment freeze program.

Yarbrough cited a June 27 Chicago Sun-Times story that reported the miscalculations had saved one Chicago couple nearly $20,000 on a Water Tower Place condominium that they’re trying to sell for $3.3 million, resulting in a tax bill last year of just $2,502.

Yarbrough’s spokeswoman Sally Daly said the clerk’s office had “temporarily suspended the calculation of tax rates in an abundance of caution . . . out of genuine concern for the senior community and in the interest of all Cook County taxpayers.”

Yarbrough changed her mind on delaying, though, after Foxx stepped in at Kaegi’s behest, issuing an opinion that “the clerk lacks authority to refuse to calculate rates and extend taxes on certified assessments . . . even if she believes the assessments may contain errors.”

Yarbrough and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas both expressed concern that incorrect bills would result in some taxpayers paying more than they should when they receive their second installment tax bills in the coming weeks.

Kaegi’s spokesman Scott Smith said the errors the Sun-Times cited have now been fixed, among 346 homes whose assessments were frozen based on the wrong initial year after they sought further tax reductions under previous assessors Joseph Berrios and Jim Houlihan.

The bills for the second of two installments on Cook County property taxes usually are due Aug. 1. It’s unclear, though, when the bills will reach taxpayers. They will be due Oct. 1, Pappas said.