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Oppo dump! Pritzker hit on huge property tax appeal

Friday, May 12, 2017

* Unlike most rich Cook County residents, JB Pritzker never appealed his local property tax bills on his house - until 2015. And then he got a huge discount

J.B. Pritzker, billionaire would-be governor, bought the historic mansion next door to his even bigger home on Chicago’s Gold Coast, let it fall into disrepair — and then argued it was “uninhabitable” to win what so far have been nearly $230,000 in property-tax breaks, records show. […]

Arguing that the smaller mansion is “vacant and uninhabitable,” those lawyers convinced Berrios to slash its assessed value last year from $6.25 million to just under $1.1 million.

That’s allowed Pritzker to get the nearly $230,000 in property-tax breaks and refunds, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

The drastically reduced assessment caused the mansion’s property taxes to plunge 83 percent, leaving Pritzker with a bill for $19,719 last year, the analysis found. That was instead of the $117,087 he otherwise would have had to pay in property taxes, which fund the Chicago Public Schools, the city and other local governments.

The assessor’s ruling also meant that Pritzker was due partial refunds on the taxes that he paid between 2012 and 2014. He got three refund checks last year totaling $132,747 — money that reduced the amount of property taxes that schools and other local governments expected to receive.

Separately, Berrios cut the assessment on the bigger mansion where the Pritzker family lives — from $14.1 million to about $12.1 million, resulting in a 16 percent lower property-tax bill last year — $221,287 rather than $264,221.

I always have a simple answer for people who ask questions like: Why would a guy with $3.4 billion care about saving a few hundred grand on his property taxes? My reply: It’s Amorica, man. Nothing’s ever enough here.

It looks like he bought the house next door to establish a buffer. He remodeled the outside so it looked nice, but apparently let the inside go to pot. (The appraiser was let inside that house, but not into Pritzker’s actual residence, which also got a reduction, over security concerns.) Then apparently he got tired of paying taxes on a house that wasn’t worth nearly as much as its appraised value.

* The full statement the Pritzker campaign gave the Sun-Times…

In 2015, JB was one of over 50,000 residents of Cook County to appeal his tax assessment and like 64% of appeals, the ruling was in JB’s favor. It’s unfortunate that in the context of a political campaign, there is now an attempt to use that routine appeal as part of a negative attack.

* More oppo from the campaign…

It’s worth noting that unlike his neighbors and many residents of Cook county (including Bruce Rauner), JB’s 2015 appeal is the only time he has appealed his taxes since he bought the property in 2006.

    · Chris Kennedy has also appealed his property tax assessment for his Kenilworth home to the Board of Review and the Board ruled in his favor. (158 Melrose Avenue)
    · In 2012, 2014, and 2015, Rauner appealed his assessment for his Randolph Street Penthouse. (340 E. Randolph Street, 61-PHE)
    · In 2012, 2014, and 2015, Rauner appealed his assessment for his Randolph Street condo. (340 E. Randolph Street, #4103)
    · In 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, Rauner also appealed his assessment for three parking spots (Space P1-28, Space P2-30, Space P2-36)

OK, but there are important distinctions. Kennedy only lowered his assessment by $10K. And Rauner’s people point out that his condo association appealed those assessments, not him. And those appeals were denied.

* The other difference is that one of Pritzker’s campaign themes is making rich people pay more taxes, as opposed to Rauner’s goal of lowering their taxes

“We’ve got to start by taxing the millionaires and billionaires first. We’re not going to middle-class families until we get people to pay their fair share,” Pritzker told reporters after his announcement.

Then again, the property taxes he was paying were “unfair,” according to the assessor’s office.

* From the ILGOP…

“It’s clear that when it comes to gaming the system for tax breaks for billionaires, J.B. Pritzker thinks big. Real big. Pritzker’s insider scheme to dodge taxes is shocking.” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe

* You can bet that “insider scheme” phrase will continue to be used. As some Rauner types have reminded me this morning, they beat the living heck out of state House candidate Merry Marwig last year for filing a couple of property tax appeals, and she didn’t get nearly the reduction that Pritzker received

Every second mailer emphasized two somewhat nebulous “Madigan connections.” One was that Marwig moved into the 41st Ward from Wicker Park in 2013 and got her property taxes lowered twice; Madigan’s law office handles such tax reductions.

And if, as expected, Berrios’ Cook County Democratic Party endorses Pritzker, you’ll definitely see the Republicans use that Pritzker-Berrios-Madigan connection over and over and over again.

…Adding… As pointed out in comments, Berrios’ spokesman told the Sun-Times that his boss didn’t know Pritzker got the assessment reductions. But, that likely won’t matter to the ILGOP.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Yaffe’s spin fails because, as the story said, Berrios had NO IDEA Pritzker the house belonged to Pritzker.

  2. - Brutal - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    This is absolutely brutal. No excuse for it at all. Chris Kennedy finally has an opening, but will he take advantage?

  3. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    “Berrios, who is also chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party that’s working to unseat Rauner next year, didn’t know Pritzker owned the Gold Coast mansions when his staff cut the assessments and, as a result, Pritzker’s taxes, according to his spokesman Tom Shaer.

    Pritzker’s name isn’t mentioned in the documents the assessor’s office released for the mansions. Both are owned by a limited liability company managed by Thomas Muenster, whose sister is Pritzker’s wife. But the Pritzker campaign acknowledges that the LLC is owned by a trust for Pritzker. Muenster and the law firm Schmidt Salzman & Moran filed the appeals with Berrios.”

  4. - the Cardinal - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    that’s how rich people stay rich …

  5. - so... - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    This seems wildly outside the spirit of vacancy reductions

  6. - GA Watcher - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    Biggest mistake by the Governor and his condo association: They should have used Speaker Madigan’s law firm to appeal their assessments.

  7. - VanillaMan - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:25 am:

    Anyone would do this. The fact that he could doesn’t make him unethical, immoral or beneath those who couldn’t.

    I’m not a JB supporter, but I’m not a gullible jealous loser either.

  8. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:25 am:

    I bet they get some high class squatters in that neighborhood…

  9. - VanillaMan - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    …quit it…you want us to keep Rauner?

    Focus on what matters - this doesn’t.

  10. - Don't Get Distracted - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    The Berrios angle is just the icing on the cake. The real damage is that he is running around saying people like him should pay more taxes, except in real life, he reduced his own taxes by hundreds of thousands. And he did it in a totally unrelateable way - claiming the multi millionoaire dollar mansion he bought is “uninhabitable.”

  11. - phocion - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    That’s gonna leave a mark!

  12. - Oswego Willy - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    The Pritzker campaign needs to ramp up their own messaging and media presence, even more than the intro ads running 10 months until the Primary.

    The real question is how much Pritzker’s opponents in the primary focus on this, up until August. Kennedy has a substantial name ID lead, Pritzker has the resources to grow his own name ID. How much time between now and petitions, with limited resources, do you spend on negative campaigning when name ID is still an issue?

  13. - VanillaMan - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    We have a “governor” who is destroying our state and can’t be insulted, bargained with, or turndd from complete gubernatorial madness.

    Democrats - stop it.

    Focus on what we really need to do. Arguing over this is embarrassing and silly.

  14. - OurMagician - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:34 am:

    Appealing your taxes is one thing, it’s a legal thing and many people do it. Buying the house next door to lower it’s taxable assessment and in turn lower your own is something the ordinary person can’t due and is the issue here.

  15. - Saluki - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:34 am:

    White noise at best, who cares, the guy was trying to save himself some money. Rauner is firebombing the state, I could care less if JB has a house with a tax break.

  16. - Juice - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    Rauner took three homestead exemptions. Which is illegal.

    Pritzker appealing his tax bill is not.

  17. - Shemp - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    Bought a mansion as a buffer? What kind of low lifes was he anticipating moving into a 7 figure home?

  18. - Albany Park Patriot - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    Water is wet.

  19. - Responsa - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    The perils of a beyond very wealthy man running to unseat another beyond very wealthy man. Get used to it.

  20. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    The only part that gives me pause is allowing people to appeal their taxes, but at the same time permitting them to use their own appraisers and deny access to the government’s appraisers. That seems ripe for trouble. I think when you file the appeal you should have to automatically grant access to the property for inspection. As for the neighboring property, if I had that kind of cash I’d fix it up and use it for guests, social occasions, whatever. Sure wouldn’t leave it uninhabitable. But that’s just me.

  21. - Almost the Weekend - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    JB team please point out how Rauner used his clout to get his child out of the excellent New Trier School system and into Walter Payton kicking out a Chicago Child who earned that spot.

    Rich that condo Rauner appealed on his property taxes was that the one he bought to establish Chicago residency to get his child into WP Prep? If so that should connect the dots.

  22. - Ok - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    Ok. He appealed to have his property tax reduced? Ok who cares.

    Pritzker referred to a graduated income tax… Not property tax.

  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    ===What kind of low lifes was he anticipating moving into a 7 figure home? ===

    Cub players?


  24. - Ok - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:52 am:

    Rauner filed property tax appeals several times. Who cares if someone did it for him. He had a part in it and Pritzker should still use that in ads against Rauner.

  25. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    Those poor school kids. How could a democrat do this to public education, especially one running a tv ad surrounded by school kids??

    The Chicago machine is alive and finely tuned!

  26. - Southwest Burbs - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    Chris Kennedy = “THANK God”
    As a union member whose union was part of the “Think Big” 14, wondering how the bosses feel down in the hall about this right about now, bc I know my fellow union brothers won’t be thrilled with his news.

  27. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    JB Pritzker paid 3.7 million dollars for a mansion that is uninhabitable and was able to reduce the assessed value from 6.25 million to under 1.1 million through an appeal.

    As Leona Helmsley famously said -only the little people pay taxes. How can a lot in the Gold Coast even if it was vacant be assessed at 1.1 million dollars?

    A 6,300 square foot brick building can have a gut renovation with nice finishes for 300 dollars a square foot to make it habitable

    More hypocrisy from the wealthy elites not wanting to pay their fair share

  28. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:02 pm:

    Wow rich people get breaks ? And disabled cops lose benefits for doing there jobs and being injured in the line of duty. Just wrong

  29. - RNUG - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:03 pm:

    J.B. effective property tax rate is 1.59% to 1.79%

    My effective property tax rate in Sangamon County between 1.82% and 2.78% (I own multiple homes at the moment).

    Like J.B., whenever they get out of line with the actual market, I’ve appealed the assessments over the years, and managed some reductions.

    Hey, it’s the tax system. Everyone games it as best they can; that’s the American way. Non-story to me.

  30. - AnonyMau5 - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:06 pm:

    No comment on the underlying issue. But the (perhaps) inadvertent link to Amorica, one of the Crowes’ best albums and last with their classic lineup, brought back a flood of good memories. Damn fine album, band and tour.

    Hey Rich, how about a track from Amorica to play us out this week? “Descending” or “Wiser Time” seem fitting. Thanks×5kdpTkSo

  31. - Tax the rich - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    My understanding is that JB wants to raise income taxes on the rich by doing so maybe it would take pressure off the school systems from using property tax as their main source of revenue.

    So electing JB will get you a property tax cut too

  32. - A guy - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    +++===What kind of low lifes was he anticipating moving into a 7 figure home? ===

    Cub players?

    lol +++

    Almost needed an Adult Diaper when I read this.

  33. - Anon Downstate - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:11 pm:

    The real story is in the ‘appraisal’ that was submitted backing up the assessment appeal. They appraisal firm was denied access for an inspection of the property (supposedly privacy and security issues). They had to work off pictures of the property.

    That’s just complete utter nonsense. I know of County assessment staff who had to perform inspections for the Board of Review (not in Cook County, but elsewhere) where the properties were nuclear generation facilities, or high level hazardous waste facilities, or manufacturing facilities where security clearances were required. Just to get access to the facility.
    Access was never denied. Ever. Somebody’s residence? You’ve got to be kidding.

    Barrios may or may not have known, but if somebody in his office didn’t pick up on that, they need to be immediately fired.

    Oh, and btw, wouldn’t a residence with non-functional plumbing (even unoccupied) be a City of Chicago code violation?

  34. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    I say who cares. Good luck parlaying that into a commercial. You will lose 9/10 of the electorate on this issue.

  35. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    ===You will lose 9/10 of the electorate on this issue===

    I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. Ask Merry Marwig.

  36. - Ok - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Mary Marwig was not a billionaire.

    She ran against someone in office for over a decade. Not against a big time failure like Bruce Rauner.

  37. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Also, as an aside for you non-billionaire homeowners out there, having your lawyers admit a home you own is “vacant and uninhabitable” isn’t a great idea as your standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover damage to such a home that’s vacant for a significant period of time. Requires a different, much more expensive policy. I’m sure JB and his people have addressed that issue, though.

  38. - Texas Red - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:31 pm:

    “Those poor school kids. How could a democrat do this to public education”

    Those school kids still collected all the tax dollars included in their levy. An property assessment reduction simply lowers the EAV of a property , which results in the owner of that parcel paying less in taxes based on the local rate. Simply put the rest of the homeowners and commercial property owners simply have to pay the difference. The taxing bodies still collect.

  39. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:32 pm:

    the ads for Marwig also said that it cost “you” or average citizens, money when she lowered her property taxes. I don’t think that point can be made in a statewide race against JB.

  40. - Chicago Barb - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:46 pm:

    I successfully appealed my taxes twice in Cook County and twice in Lake County. Didn’t need a law firm and no appraisers came to my house in Chicago - I just submitted photos. I don’t get what the big deal is. Anyone with a legitimate basis for appeal can get their taxes reduced.

  41. - Louis G. Atsaves - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    If the building is “uninhabitable” then why isn’t the City of Chicago bombarding the homeowner with citations? How much would it cost to reconnect those toilets?

    Gold Coast Slumlord? LOL! Only in Illinois and Chicago!

  42. - RNUG - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    == Requires a different, much more expensive policy. ==

    I can attest to that re a vacant hpuse.

  43. - Ok - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    Michael McAuliffe assumed office in 1996 and has been reelected ever since. I highly doubt property taxes had anything to do with Merry Marwig losing.

    Michael McAuliffe is like the Madigan of his district. He has been in office a long time.

  44. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:02 pm:

    Texas Red, I have no idea what you are talking about. Downstate, roughly 58-62% of a real estate tax bill goes to the school district. Assuming a similar % applies in Chicago, 60% of a $230,000 reduction equals $138,000 annually not going to schools—from one property.

  45. - Texas Red - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    ==60% of a $230,000 reduction equals $138,000 annually not going to schools—from one property.

    Trust me that $138,000 reduction on one parcel is simply moved over to other properties within the taxing district. That is why there is a clear deadline for appeals - once the appeals have been granted or denied - then the county clerk creates the tax bills . The taxing bodies always collect their levy.

  46. - Patrick - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    I’m no mathematician, but spending $3.7 million to buy an extra mansion just to save $230k on property taxes doesn’t seem to add up.

  47. - Arock - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    Reminds me of John Kerry, rich people need to pay more taxes, but I am going to register my yacht somewhere where the taxes are lower.

  48. - Rocky Rosi - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    This is bad! Once he releases his tax returns people will say he made how much??? And he is not paying his fair share like the rest of us because of his insider connections? Title of Ad “Not Right”
    He needs to get in front of this asap.

  49. - RNUG - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:32 pm:

    == I’m no mathematician, but spending $3.7 million to buy an extra mansion just to save $230k on property taxes doesn’t seem to add up. ==

    I’m sure it was more about creating a buffer zone to o prevent having any neighbors … or at least neighbors they didn’t want. The real meat, if there is anything, is not in doing it or appealing the taxes, but getting it done by some corporation they control.

    Not exactly a move most of us could do. But the Rauner campaign may want to think twice about going there; their guy is vulnerable on some of the questions shell companies he created to spin off and sell things like nursing home debt.

  50. - W Flag - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 1:45 pm:

    The story has a familiar ring to it. The elites play by a different set of rules.

    Remember Michael Segal, a powerful insurance magnate from George Dunne’s 42nd Ward organization, who wound up in “Club Fed?” He received a property tax break for the a gated “park” adjacent to his property, which was closed to the public.

    Bad press for Pritzker to be sure.

  51. - OneMan - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    The drastically reduced assessment caused the mansion’s property taxes to plunge 83 percent, leaving Pritzker with a bill for $19,719 last year, the analysis found. That was instead of the $117,087 he otherwise would have had to pay in property taxes, which fund the Chicago Public Schools, the city and other local governments.

    So 1.1 million is $19,719 in property taxes…

    did the math real quick would be well over $25,000 in OneMan land….

    Heck Chicago, charge the same rate OW and I pay and you have your CPS budget problems solved…

  52. - Patrick - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:17 pm:


    I think you’re likely correct. I just found the characterization of the story a bit odd. It’s very much framed as if Pritzker did something objectively wrong, which is the spin an opponent would put on it. Tim Novak is a good reporter from what I’ve seen, so I was surprised to see him write the story the way he did.

    The story also doesn’t mention when Pritzker bought the second house or the time period over which the $230k was spread. I looked it up in the Cook Co. property tax system:

    2016: $10,845.41*
    2015: $19,718.93
    2014: $31,263.91
    2013: $30,846.46
    2012: $31,126.78
    *=(1st Install Only)

    Total is $123,801, plus presumably another $10,845 for his second installment. The home is owned by an LLC, which is owned by another LLC and so on. First mention of the first LLC in connection to the house is 2007, so I assume that’s when he bought it. Before 2012 isn’t available online for free, so I can’t check the $230k figure.

    Maybe Pritzker wanted to knock down the second house and expand his lot or something. Regardless, no one buys *more* properties in an effort to avoid property taxes, as the story implies.

  53. - Anon0091 - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:37 pm:

    “Tim Novak is a good reporter from what I’ve seen, so I was surprised to see him write the story the way he did.”

    He’s a good reporter but he also loves to write gotcha stories that leave out context. So according to what Rich posted, he apparently Pritzker never appealed except for one time. Why not put that context in there? What about his neighbors? Did his neighbors appeal theirs? (hint, probably yea, every year). Did he get any special insider deal? (hint, obviously not since his name wasn’t on the tax bill). In other words, there was probably a ton of context Novak left out to write this dreck.

  54. - qualified someone nobody sent - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:38 pm:

    No taxing district lost a penny! Property taxes are a FIXED amount given to the taxing body no matter what. JB’s move SHIFTED the tax burden to everyone else in each particular district by reducing his liability legally on a property under renovation. Happens every day in Cook County.

  55. - wordslinger - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:48 pm:

    Fair game. But I’d guess dueling mansions between Rauner and Pritzker would be a push.

    I mean, Rauner has a moat around his Central Park penthouse.

  56. - Hobson's Choice - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 2:50 pm:

    “Only little people pay taxes.”

    Attributed to Leona Helmsley, but could it apply to Mr. Big also?

  57. - City Zen - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 3:30 pm:

    == Property taxes are a FIXED amount given to the taxing body no matter what. JB’s move SHIFTED the tax burden to everyone else==

    That’s supposed to make us feel better?

  58. - Anonymous - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 3:38 pm:

    I agree with OK at 12:29 and would add that Rauner attempted to do the same thing…many times.

  59. - RNUG - Friday, May 12, 17 @ 4:19 pm:

    == That’s supposed to make us feel better? ==

    No, but it explains the taxing bodies still get their money one way or the other.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* Governor announces $1 million Rauner family contribution to begin restoration of Coliseum; takes action on package of agriculture legislation
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* Verizon to bundle Apple TV 4K or YouTube TV subscription to future 5G broadband service
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* Casting fate: White Sox overcome Detroit, 6-3
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* Shields shows durability nearing 400-start mark
* White Sox Minor League Update: August 13, 2018
* Flashback: August 14, 2008
* Six Pack of Stats: Tigers 9, White Sox 5

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