Editorial: Board of Review should rethink where it is putting new hires
Why would anyone in Cook County want to slow the property tax appeals process?
That is precisely what we risk, because of a December decision by the Cook County Board of Review to unevenly distribute 11 new analysts inside the Board. Ten new analysts about to be hired by the Board of Review will be assigned to the two Democratic commissioners on the board, leaving the one Republican member with fewer staffers.
As our watchdog reporter Jake Griffin explained last week, the Cook County Board of Review -- whose job is to process the glut of property assessment appeals filed every year in the county -- has been told by the Cook County Board it can hire up to 16 new employees: 11 now, funded by attorney's fees -- and five more later, funded by the county board. To keep up with demand, employees at the review board are already working mandatory 50-hour weeks, according to Commissioner Michael Cabonargi.
As we editorialized Tuesday, we have serious questions about an assessment system that causes a quarter of all property owners in Cook County to file appeals. Today, however, we take issue with how the additional help is being apportioned.
The Board of Review has three elected members, Democrats Cabonargi and Larry Rogers, and Republican Dan Patlak, from Wheeling. Each commissioner has his own staff of analysts and is elected in his own district -- in Patlak's case, primarily by suburban voters.
Each appeal is analyzed independently three times before a decision is made -- by analysts from each commissioner's staff. All three commissioners eventually vote on any assessment change.
Cabonargi says he and Rogers need more staff because property owners in their districts -- primarily Chicago -- need more outreach to learn about the property assessment appeal process.
We don't buy it. There are plenty of appeal-savvy property owners in the suburbs, yes, but there are many people who have no idea about the process. When Patlak's staffers hold appeals seminars throughout the suburbs, it is a valuable service -- as valuable here as it is in the city.
More worrying, however, is the delays this will inevitably cause in the appeals process. Since every staff handles the same number of appeals, it stands to reason that Patlak's smaller staff will be slower to get the job done. Or, even more frightening, they will rush through appeals.
"My biggest concern is not only the fairness of the distribution of labor but that the work gets done on time," Elk Grove Township Assessor Connie Carosielli told Griffin. "If a taxpayer can't expect equitable distribution of staff looking at their appeal, why would they expect an equitable examination of that appeal?"
That's hitting the nail on the head. In December, Patlak tried to persuade Cabonargi and Rogers to distribute the new hires in a way that would given them 30 analysts each, only to have his "Fair Hiring Plan Resolution" shot out from under him.
It's time for Cabonargi and Rogers to reconsider, for the good of the appeals system in Cook County.