Thursday, October 4, 2007

Some Things Simply Confuse Me

I love where I live. I really do. I live 45 minutes from Chicago, 5 minutes from the train to get there, 20 minutes from O'Hare, we have some of the best schools in Illinois in my town, great live theater and many other wonderful ammenities in my community, plus my closest friends.

There's just one thing I don't like: the ever increasing property tax bill.

Once every three years Cook County reasseses all properties within the county, sends out a property assessment and then property taxes are increased in accordance with the new assessment. My assessment arrived about 10 days ago. It increased 45% over last year. Yes. 45 PERCENT. And my assessment included many fallacies about my home including a 1 1/2 car garage, basement, 2 1/2 baths, an extra bedroom, a fireplace, and about 300 extra square feet.

The good news is that assessments can be appealed. The bad news is that we've appealed in the past, each time disputing all these extra rooms in the house, and are always denied. I swear these rooms don't exist, but no one seems to believe me.

Tonight I attended a meeting with a Cook County Assessor's Office official who was supposed to explain the process for appeals and answer questions from property owners.

To say that this man evaded all questions would be an understatement. He simply ignored questions and when he got tired of someone said it was time to move on. After he explained that property assessments are determined entirely by the square footage of the home, but that other characteristics (e.g., number of bathrooms, bedrooms, fireplaces, air conditioning, etc.) were important, and then again contradicting himself in "answering" other questions, I raised my hand and asked him to please clarify whether the assessment was based solely on the square footage of my home OR whether characteristics were taken into account, and if so, to what extent. I was holding the appeal form and said I did not understand why, if these characteristics did not matter and the only thing that mattered was square footage, it asked for all the information about bathrooms, bedrooms, AC, how many cars fit into the garage, etc.

I swear to God, his answer was "Well, ma'am, some people like to know the characteristics of their home." After picking my jaw up off the floor and the laughter in the audience died down, I replied, "With all due respect, sir, if I want to know how many bedrooms I have, I walk around my house. So now could you please answer my question?" And he repeated himself! So I again replied “You see I’m confused because for YEARS my assessment information has said that I have more bedrooms and bathrooms than I have and although I appeal it, I keep getting denied. Now if you can come out to my house and personally show me where my 4th & 5th bedrooms and 3rd bathroom are located, I’m happy to pay for them, but until then, I really don’t want to pay for them. And I'm thinking that if your office believes I have more rooms than I really have, that could affect my square footage. Can you at least tell me how to definitively prove that I do not have all these rooms and ammenities you think I have?” So he tells me to appeal. I again say I have and he says “Well, you seem to be irritated by all of this. Next question.” And some guy from the other side of the room says “The lady is irritated because you refuse to answer her question which is a question we all want to know the answer to.”

I had to leave a short time later because I absolutely cannot stand incompetence. And this guy was its poster child.

But if anyone can show me where my extra bathroom is and can point out the extra 1/2 garage, I'd truly appreciate it.


  1. Was he from the County assessor's office or from Wheeling Township?


  2. Sorry I wasn't clear. The speaker was from the Cook County Assessor's Office. I wish I had his name, but he was introduced faster than I could write.


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