Tammy Wendt: 2022 candidate for Cook County Board of Review District 1
City: Palos Heights
Occupation: Attorney/Commissioner of the Board of Review/Real Estate Broker
Previous offices held: Commissioner of the Board of Review
Q: What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you to be on the Board of Review? If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: As a practicing attorney for more than 21 years, and as the incumbent, my experience in real estate and property tax has allowed me to help improve the appeal process. I am the only commissioner that is a Certified Illinois Assessing Officer at the board, as well as a licensed real estate broker. I combine that with my legal knowledge to dig deep into the processes at the board to bring ideas that help property owners.
I am a lifelong resident of Cook County and I have seen many taxpayers fleeing the county for lower taxes. We needed change and I knew I could help through my experience. In the short time I have served, we replicated the in-person services of my office into a virtual setting to ensure the property tax appeal process was not disrupted by the COVID pandemic. We also implemented virtual and in-person outreach sessions to educate District 1 property owners on how to complete the property tax appeal process. But there is more work to do -- this is why I am running again.
Q: What changes would you propose in the operation of the Board of Review?
A: Transparency and accountability -- I have advocated for public meetings to be held so the public has input on how the agency is run. The board needs to be more transparent in its budgeting, operations, and the decision-making process. The current three meetings a year is not my vision of how a publicly funded agency should operate. The Open Meetings Act has historically been ignored by the board and I have been advocating for the need to adhere to its requirements.
We also need to keep up with technology to offer greater controls of processes to eliminate the ability of "bad-actors" to use the system for personal gain.
In order to preserve integrity, we need a system to track the PTAB files and their negotiations.
I want to expand education for my staff through organizations such as the Illinois Property Assessment Institute and the IAAO. I will continue to fight for educational funding for the board.
Lastly, I would also like to introduce term limits into the BOR of 10 years.
Q: How do you view the responsibilities of the board and the level of assessments as they apply to commercial and to residential taxpayers? What differences do you see between the two types of taxpayer, and how is, or should be, the Board of Review set up to deal with them appropriately?
A: The board currently views commercial properties at 25% for their income-producing capability, and at 10% for residential properties. Both are equally essential to our community, and neither group should be over assessed. Commercial properties are in many instances owned and operated by those who also reside within the county -- we have a rich history of family businesses in neighborhoods for generations -- and we should ensure they will continue to thrive and not be encumbered by high property taxes.
We also need to maintain a business-friendly environment (through reasonable property taxes) that will invite corporations from outside of the area to do business and establish a commercial presence in the community. Cook County is one of the best places to live and work because we have the right mix of fairly assessed commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. If we start to view each party differently and over-assess either party, I believe that imbalance would hurt our community.
Q: Describe your position on transparency and customer service at the Board of Review. How easy and convenient is it for average citizens to appeal their taxes? What, if anything, should be done to improve procedures?
A: I believe the Board of Review can operate with a greater transparency. The office exists to serve the taxpayers, and we need to make sure that taxpayers understand and have access to all of the tools and resources they need to submit an appeal and receive a timely response. When we all appeal our property taxes -- commercial and residential -- we are ensuring that our community is fairly assessed. Fair assessments help to root out corruption by exposing unfair property valuations received by those who try to cheat the system and not pay their fair share. Just last year we saw bribes were being paid to unjustly lower property taxes. You will never see this type of activity in my office. I am dedicated to ensuring District 1 is fairly assessed through continued outreach and education to the taxpayers, along with a streamlined and user-friendly online and in-person appeal process.