Chicago Mayor Richard Daley wasted no time pointing hizzoner’s finger at Cook County Tax Assessor Jim Houlihan over this year’s sharp spike in property taxes. But his wag of the finger ignores a $65 million City Hall property tax increase passed two years ago.
Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday tried to offer up a scapegoat for the puzzle of why property tax bills are soaring as home values are plummeting: Cook County Assessor James Houlihan.
As he promoted a modest city tax relief program, Daley also lashed out at the assessor, accusing him of not doing his part to keep a lid on tax bills expected to arrive in mailboxes the next few days.
"The thing I can’t understand (is) this whole assessment deal," the mayor said. "Now, no one’s value is going up in the city. … I’m asking him how he does it."
Despite the attack, Daley didn’t make clear how the assessor could have acted legally to alter the trajectory of the latest round of bills. The mayor also did not mention that new bills to Chicago residents reflect a $65 million City Hall property tax increase passed two years ago but that’s only showing up now. Houlihan spokesman Eric Herman blamed big hikes largely on the General Assembly’s decision to phase out a program designed to soften the effect on taxes of soaring property values earlier this decade. "This idea somehow that we’re going around jacking up everybody’s assessments is just fiction," Herman said.
The finger-pointing took place after Houlihan released new data showing that homeowners across much of the city and county can expect to be hard hit by the latest installment of tax bills.
Mayor Daley has been around long enough to know exactly "how [Houlihan] does it." These assessments the tax bills are based on are already two years old, according to the Tribune, "The latest round of bills actually reflects 2008 taxes. For city neighborhoods, those bills were calculated using assessment values from 2006."
Then the bottom dropped out:
The bubble burst last year, too late to be factored into the tax bills that West Garfield Park homeowners have to pay this year. "We are legally prohibited from using current market conditions to go back and change assessments for a previous year," [Houlihan spokesman Eric] Herman said.
Houlihan said the legislature must shoulder responsibility. From the Sun-Times:
"This is a direct result of Speaker Madigan’s phaseout of the 7 percent homeowner exemption," Houlihan said. "This is the one thing that worked. For the first three years, when it was really going, it protected homeowners. I met with the mayor and urged him to go to Springfield and try to reverse that. The budget indicates how serious the problem is: The mayor has $35 million to deal with that."
Daley supported the "7 percent" cap on property tax increases, but a $65 million property tax increase from Chicago’s City Hall does make a difference, and the mayor owes it to the citizens of Chicago to admit that.