* From Chicago mayoral candidate and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s “Future Now” plan…
Susana will work with Assessor Fritz Kaegi to make our property tax system more progressive by advocating in Springfield for a tiered approach to property tax assessments, similar to what is in place in a number of other states. Under this approach, properties with lower assessments are taxed at a lower rate than more expensive properties. As mayor, Susana will support making the necessary changes in state law to allow Assessor Kaegi to make these changes in Cook County.
* Greg Hinz followed up…
In an interview, Mendoza said she envisions “maybe three or four tiers,” with the assessment rate rising with the value of the property. Mendoza, now the Illinois comptroller, said she doesn’t yet know what those rates should be, but confirmed that she’s “especially focused on residential rates” because of recent reporting that the current system resulted in homes in poor, minority neighborhoods tending to be valued at relatively higher figures than in many wealthier sections of the city.
Kaegi, who just took office, has vowed to change that practice over time, effectively shifting more of the property tax burden to higher-priced areas. But Mendoza’s change would be on top of that—meaning residents of areas with higher-than-average home prices (be it Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Jefferson Park, the South Loop or Beverly) would pay the higher property tax pushed through by outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel as well as the higher assessments Kaegi wants and Mendoza’s new tiers.
Asked if that’s fair to residents of those neighborhoods, Mendoza said, “I don’t look at it that way.” The way she looks at it, she says, is that some areas of the city were devastated by a property tax system “rigged” to favor the more well-off, so now the latter may have to pay “a little bit more” to make amends. “This would create more fairness in the system.”
Mendoza said she’s also open to another idea that’s been circulating, to impose an extra real estate tax on the sale of properties worth more than $1 million. But the idea would have to be enacted by referendum, and advocates for the homeless and other groups have been debating who would get the proceeds.
*** UPDATE *** Mendoza now as an op-ed up on the Crain’s website backing away from her idea…
One of the most important aspects of effective, elective leadership is to listen. I recognize my fellow Chicagoans want us to focus on creating a fair and transparent assessment system. Altering or tiering rates, as my plan suggested, may not be the best way to get there. I’m not afraid to propose bold ideas. And at times I might miss the mark, as I did on this proposal. But when I do miss the mark, I won’t be afraid to consider alternative points of view and amend those ideas.
To be clear: Chicago already has a rigged two-tiered system that leaves the wealthy and well-connected paying less, while working class families pick up the tab. This was a serious proposal on a complex issue to help fix our deeply broken property tax system. Right now, many high value properties are assessed at rates that are lower than they should be, while low value properties are assessed at rates that are far too high, creating a regressive tax on our neighborhoods.
I support the work Assessor Fritz Kaegi is doing to collect better data and build an assessment model that works for all families in every corner of Chicago. The best plan for this moment would be to build on his work, create a system that is fully transparent and fair without altering rates, and continue finding further ways the city of Chicago can work with the Assessor’s Office to fix our broken property tax system.