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Experts question county assessor’s COVID relief calculation

January 30, 2022 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Experts have raised questions about a formula used by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi to give homeowners a break due to pandemic-related unemployment, which a published report said resulted in some high-profile businesses and residents benefiting.

Kaegi’s office used its own neighborhood projections on job loss versus relying on sale prices to determine the residential property value, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

For instance, Kaegi’s office calculated that the low-income Chicago neighborhood of Greater Grand Crossing would see the same level of pandemic-related unemployment as the wealthy suburb of Winnetka. Residents of the Chicago neighborhood saw small increases in their taxes. At the same time, the newspaper analysis also showed Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who lives in a growing North Side neighborhood, benefitted with a lower tax bill.

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“They took a gamble, and the gamble didn’t turn out as they expected,” Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a government watchdog group, told the newspaper. “A lot of the relief they gave was uneven and not where it was needed.”

Kaegi’s office blasted the newspaper analysis, saying it left out that more than 1.5 million residential and commercial properties “received a needed COVID adjustment during a life-threatening pandemic.”

“The truth is, we issued COVID adjustments fairly, transparently, and by treating everyone equitably,” Kaegi spokesman Scott Smith said in a statement emailed Sunday.

Kaegi also raised his own assessment on his Oak Park home, causing his tax bill to jump from $27,919 to $42,789.