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Preckwinkle says Emanuel tax break can’t be done

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015

* Greg Hinz

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle dropped a political bomb on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2016 city budget today, saying it’s technically impossible to implement a special break Emanuel wants in order to largely shelter city homeowners from the $588 million property tax hike he plans.

“We can’t do it,” said Preckwinkle, referring to an expanded homestead exemption Emanuel wants, a measure that would have to be administered by the county’s property-taxing system. “There’s no way we can get our computer software to do it.”

Preckwinkle’s comments, which came during a meeting with Crain’s editorial board on her own proposed 2016 budget, followed a meeting this morning between her and other county officials, notably including County Treasurer Maria Pappas, whose office actually sends out the property tax bills. Preckwinkle said her understanding of what is and is not technically possible came largely from Pappas.

Pappas, in a phone call, complained that Preckwinkle is “using” her as part of a political feud with the mayor, but she did confirm that, indeed, the county’s current, antiquated computer system cannot neatly divide properties and their tax rates between those located in and out of the city.

“They can’t do it. I’m 95 percent sure they can’t do it,” said Pappas, noting that the county only recently began to move to replace its quarter-century-old mainframe computer.

Man, it just gets worse every single solitary day.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:36 pm:

    Love of God Rich post more pictures of your dog. Maybe a cute baby creature, something. Tell us a nice uplifting story about how it all works out. This is like living in a French film.

  2. - Ghost - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:41 pm:

    antiquated software…. so write or buy a new system…. someone call LRS this is not a difficult problem to fix….

  3. - AC - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:43 pm:

    Anything can be done, even maintenance in old COBOL programs. Sure, it’d be expensive, and might not be able to be implemented quickly, but it is very much possible.

  4. - WW - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:45 pm:

    I think the Assessor is the office holder who can tell us whether or not this is doable…not the Board Prez or Treasurer.

  5. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:47 pm:

    Call AWillyWord Consulting. We can fix anything for the right price.

  6. - anon - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:50 pm:

    The County knows every address and what taxing districts are associated with it. You can verify that at the link below. Try your own address and view the districts. It is a pretty cool tool.

    There may be other problems but knowing whether an address is in our out of the City of Chicago isn’t one.

  7. - AC - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:51 pm:

    Hard coded values are terrible, even when your boss says they’ll never change, especially when your boss says they’ll never change.

  8. - Uptown Lawyer - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 4:58 pm:

    This is great news. The tax break relied (in part) on renters (like me) subsidizing a tax break for homeowners. [Crains has done some great analyses on how much rents will increase if landlords pass through the tax increase as increased rents.] If Chicago is going to get out of its fiscal hole, everyone needs to have skin in the game.

  9. - nixit71 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:01 pm:

    ==I think the Assessor is the office holder who can tell us whether or not this is doable==

    Good point. Maybe Joseph Berrios’ son can offer his technical expertise. He’s the county’s computer operator down the hall from his dad.

    Or maybe Berrios’ daughter. Or his sister. Or one of his two sisters-in-law. Or his brother-in-law. Surely one of these county employees whom also coincidentally are Berrios’ relatives can fix this problem.

  10. - nixit71 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:03 pm:

    Interestingly, the subtle nuances of raising taxes on specific “amusement” activities is well within the county’s technical prowess.

  11. - Gooner - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:07 pm:

    The really odd thing is that Pappas has been in office since 1998 and she’s complaining about antiquated systems.

    Her job is to make that office efficient and not antiquated.

  12. - Macbeth - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:16 pm:

    I agree. As someone who spent my undergrad and grad programming Pascal, COBOL, and FORTRAN — as well as writing assembly language on a DEC PDP-11 — it’s impossible to say, “It can’t be done.”

    It makes no sense. Of course, it can be done. It may be difficult to find the programming expertise — but it absolutely, absolutely can be done.

    What many folks don’t realize is that there’s a resurgence in some of these ‘Retro’ languages — and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear of a 21-year old undergrad happy to undertake the challenge — and do it expertly.

    What garbage. “It can’t be done.” What lazy, lazy thinking.

  13. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:22 pm:

    AA, lol. We missed the big score on Rauner.

    Give me a break. In what world do you really think you can blame it on the software?

    I’m obviously no fan of Emanuel, but get real.

  14. - Henry Moon - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:45 pm:

    What more has to happen before the powers that be in Chicago realize that their tax and spend policies to support unions and special interests are unsustainable? Or are well left with the Vietnam War era saying repurposed: will the last actual taxpayer and home owner left in Cook County please turn off the light on their way to a more rationally governed state, county, city.

  15. - Juice - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:59 pm:

    Every taxing district in cook county has a different tax rate. What on earth are they talking about? Assessor sends assessed values to clerk along with exemptions that have been granted. Clerk then takes levies sent to them by different taxing bodies and divides by assessed values times the multiplier minus the exemptions to then get a rate. Rate then gets applied to EAVs of individual properties like it would otherwise. Don’t see how that is not doable.

  16. - Amalia - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:02 pm:

    “using” her as part of a political feud with the mayor. omg.

  17. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:06 pm:

    ==- Henry Moon - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 5:45 pm:==

    What more has to happen before partisan hacks write an original comment?

  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:07 pm:

    The same Toni Preckwinkle who ran on repealing Todd Stroger’s tax increase before she realized how wrong she was? She’s not the most reliable source on what can or can’t be done regarding taxes.

  19. - Union Dues - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:22 pm:

    Macbeth is correct.

  20. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:28 pm:

    What the heck is a Henry Moon?

    Do you get money or narcotics that soft of thing?

    I don’t judge, but baby, if it’s that easy, sign me up.

  21. - walker - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:30 pm:

    Pappas complains about Toni’s statement, but then confirms it’s true? Preckwinkle been pushing a lot of buttons. Has to.

  22. - Macbeth - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 6:45 pm:

    BTW — the people saying it can’t be done are old folks. You ask a young guy or gal — can it be done? And the answer — I guarantee — is yes.

    It’s not the software that’s antiquated. It’s the people in charge — Preckwinkle first and foremost. And Pappas, too. This is government at its worst — and laziest.

  23. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 7:16 pm:

    Word, we could get this job, sub it out to Madigan and Getzendanner,/Eddie Burke and everybody still could eat well.

    They know if something is in the City or not. Always.

  24. - kimaye - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 7:51 pm:

    too funny. did anyone ever think this “proposal” to save poorer homeowners was going anywhere? it is just the “pass the blame” game. Emanuel doesn’t have to blame Springfield, and it’s not Preckwinkle’s fault, it is Papas’s fault. lol. classic politics.

  25. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 8:26 pm:

    Dear Mayor Emanuel:

    I can do it.



  26. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 9:12 pm:

    “Every taxing district in cook county has a different tax rate. What on earth are they talking about? Assessor sends assessed values to clerk along with exemptions that have been granted. Clerk then takes levies sent to them by different taxing bodies and divides by assessed values times the multiplier minus the exemptions to then get a rate. Rate then gets applied to EAVs of individual properties like it would otherwise. Don’t see how that is not doable.”

    It’s certainly doable. But to have it done by tax billing rime in 2016, you would certainly have to start work designing, coding, and testing prior to November 1. Be tough - real tough. But doable.

    The good news is that all of Cook County is divided into what are called ‘Tax Codes’, which each code represents a unique group of tax districts. You change (add, delete, or change) a tax district, you are in a different tax code.

    Each tax code has their own tax (millage) rate, which is a compilation of the rates for each of the different tax districts in that tax code.

    Think of it as:

    Tax Code: (Unique code; may be numeric, or alpha/numeric):
    - Tax District 1 (Usually County is first) - tax district code identifier.
    - Tax District 2 (Township) - tax district code identifier.
    - Tax District 3 (Township Road - if exists) - tax district code identifier.
    - Tax District 4 (School District) - tax district code identifier.
    - Tax District 5 (Municipality) - tax district code identifier.
    - Tax District 6 (If Library, list separately) - tax district code identifier.
    - Etc., Etc. (Special tax districts, etc.) - tax district code identifier.

    So separating out what is in the City of Chicago vrs. everything else is pretty simple. You just look for those tax codes that contain the specific tax district code associated with the City of Chicago.

    Course, a vastly outdated computer system will make things a whole lot harder. Time becomes a really serious consideration.

    Not impossible, just fairly difficult.

    IMO, accuracy would likely be a far different story. That’s a whole different can of worms.

  27. - DuPage Bard - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 10:39 pm:

    Sadly another in a long line of -why change it if it ain’t broken. Well it is broken so fix it. The DMV is probably the only government agency to actually upgrade and stay relevant with it’s systems.

  28. - DonaldTrump - Wednesday, Oct 14, 15 @ 11:56 pm:

    This speaks for itself. Keep electing them Dems.

  29. - PublicServant - Thursday, Oct 15, 15 @ 6:29 am:

    Yeah everything’s running smoothly now that we’ve elected a Republican as governor…

  30. - PMcP - Thursday, Oct 15, 15 @ 7:10 am:

    Anyone else a fan on Preckwinkle raising amusement taxes and then tossing cold water on Emanuel’s plan as cover? Because I am…

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