Proposed laws would assure fairness on Board of Review
At the Cook County Board of Review, where we adjudicate property tax appeals, there are three co-equal commissioners who represent three separate geographic districts, each comprising 1.7 million residents.
Each commissioner's staff does the exact same amount of work. That's because every appeal that comes to the board (regardless of what district the property owner is from) is reviewed by one analyst who works for each commissioner. It is incredibly problematic that the two Chicago commissioners have taken it upon themselves to place three-fourths of all analyst positions under their personal control.
Through a recent article by Daily Herald Watchdog Columnist Jake Griffin and two editorials by the newspaper, suburban residents have learned about the inequitable distribution of resources and personnel that is occurring at the Cook County Board of Review.
This action by my two colleagues who represent majority Chicago districts to monopolize personnel at the board is bad for the reputation of our office as a bipartisan entity where aggrieved property owners can receive a fair, thorough and unbiased review of their tax appeal. The Daily Herald has characterized this action as an example of "partisan bullying," but it is much worse than that.
The three-member Board of Review was created in 1996 by an act of the General Assembly to replace the old two-member Board of Appeals to provide equal representation to suburban residents because the two members were elected at large and always from Chicago.
The recent transfer of power through misappropriation of resources is an attempt to bring us back to the old Board of Appeals. At a time of stagnant property values and rising property taxes, this is an issue that concerns every resident of Cook County and especially every suburban resident who is now being deprived of the representation the legislature intended to provide for them back in 1996 and which they deserve. The unfortunate results of this power grab are the following:
• One-third of taxpayers are under-represented
• All taxpayers are underserved
• The system of checks and balances in the adjudication of appeals has been undermined
• The original intent of the legislation has been trashed
• The integrity of the appeal process is under attack
• My ability as your suburban representative to carry out my statutory duties has been diminished
This has all happened because two commissioners have chosen to act in their own self-interest instead of the interests of taxpayers and because of the broadness and vagueness of the original statute creating the Board.
The two Chicago commissioners are resolute in their desire to exercise monopoly control over personnel and thus policy at the board. The only remedy for this situation is through action by the General Assembly.
Two identical bills have been introduced in the Senate and House. They are SB 124 and HB 354. They are pure good government, non-partisan pieces of legislation that will benefit all taxpayers, and they have no down side.
The legislation is one sentence that amends the original language creating the Board of Review, "Upon establishing the compensation of board of review employees fixed by the county board, the county shall, at all times, ensure that each of the commissioners on the board of review receives equitable resources and staffing."
In 1776, the cry went out that there should be no taxation without representation. That is exactly what is happening now due to a loophole in the Board of Review creation statute. The current personnel allocation at the Board defies logic, fairness, equity and any common sense understanding of equal representation.
Passage of HB354 and SB124 can solve that problem now and for future generations. It is up to members of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate to right the wrong that is happening at the Board of Review.
I encourage all residents to contact their state senator and representative and ask them to vote for HB354 and SB124, the Board of Review Equitable Resources bill.
Dan Patlak, a Wheeling Republican, is 1st District commissioner and chairman of the Cook County Board of Review.