Support hoped to spread, Village creates online portal for businesses
By Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (March 13, 2021) – When business property reassessments were released last year in Lansing, some of the Village’s property owners were shocked at the likely increase in taxes they would have to pay in 2021. In the last few months, public bodies in the Village of Lansing have taken steps to advocate on behalf of local businesses by creating a joint resolution to send to the Cook County Assessor’s Office.
Spiking assessments: How we got here
During the Cook County Assessor’s 2020 reassessment of property in south suburban Cook County, many commercial and industrial properties in Lansing were assessed at a much higher value than in previous years. According to data available on the Cook County Assessor’s website, some values doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled, forcing some Lansing businesses to consider closing or moving to Indiana to avoid unmanageable tax bills in the coming years.
As has been previously reported in The Lansing Journal, one example of a drastic increase in property assessment values is the property on the northeast corner of Roy Street and Ridge Road (3300 Ridge Road). This property houses Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders, Ooo Wee Chicken & Ribs, The Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce, and soon Pour on Roy. The assessed value of the property quadrupled from $54,596 in 2020 to $216,643 in 2021. Assuming the equalized tax rate remains similar to last year, the taxes owed on the property will quadruple as well, an increase that property owner Jim Todd says will force him to move or close his business in the next handful of years.
Looking for answers
Since the reassessments were released, some Lansing business owners have spoken virtually to Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and members of his staff. Village Trustee and Lansing business owner Brian Hardy has been part of some of those conversations and said a February 27 email from Kaegi’s Communications Officer Scott Smith indicated the Assessor’s Office was aware of the issue and was hoping to get it resolved.
At the February 2 Village Board meeting, Village Administrator Dan Podgorski presented a resolution which he explained was a combined resolution, meaning it is designed to be passed by more than one governing body.
The title of the first draft of the resolution is, “A JOINT RESOLUTION DEMANDING FAIRNESS AND EQUITY IN DETERMINING THE ASSESSED VALUE OF COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL PROPERTIES FOR THE CALCULATION OF REAL PROPERTY TAXES.”
Podgorski said the resolution was drafted by the Village’s attorneys and represents an effort on behalf of the Village to “put as much pressure as we can on the Assessor’s Office, and plead for some equity in the assessment process, and some relief and some consideration for commercial and industrial property owners.”
The three-page draft includes a demand for “fairness and equity by the Cook County Assessor in determining the assessed value of commercial and industrial properties,” as well as a demand for the Cook County Assessor to “re-evaluate the distribution of the tax burden on their commercial and industrial property owners.”
The resolution also states, “The Governing Bodies urgently request that the Cook County Assessor immediately decrease assessed values for commercial and industrial real estate beginning in 2020: a) based on the COVID-19 epidemic, b) based on business vacancy rates, and c) based on the current economic hardships faced by businesses and the Governing Bodies.”
After reading the draft resolution to the Village Board on February 2, Podgorski said, “It’s on the front of everyone’s minds, and we’d like to do everything we can to convince the assessor that his office needs to evaluate what’s being done to our commercial property and industrial property owners.”
Support for the resolution
The strength of the Village’s resolution lies just as much in its supporters as in its language. Podgorski mentioned many of Lansing’s public bodies were interested in adopting the resolution, meaning they would be part of the “Governing Bodies” mentioned in the joint resolution.
Aware of the staggering tax increases facing some Lansing businesses this year, District 158 School Board President Bob Wood was quick to approach the Village and discuss ways to help. This discussion was then brought to a virtual intergovernmental meeting in late January.
“Pretty soon we realized that there was a lot of mutual support … and we really started talking about how we could garner more widespread support,” said District 158 Superintendent Nathan Schilling, who wrote a letter to Illinois State Representative William Davis explaining the situation. Schilling said W.C. Reavis Elementary Principal Dave Kostopoulos wrote a similar letter to State Representative Marcus Evans Jr.
Another public body that intends to support the resolution is the Lansing Public Library. Library Director Debbie Albrecht said, “Normally taxing bodies don’t get into the politics of other things, but to me, this isn’t about politics. This is about what’s right and wrong.”
Albrecht said Podgorski made a presentation before the Library Board in February. The Library Board will vote on whether or not to support the joint resolution at their March board meeting.
“It just seems like such a shame because with Fox Pointe … [Lansing] is right on the cusp of being a place that people are going to want to come to, where maybe you want some new restaurants, and bars, and businesses because we’ll have more traffic in town. Well, this is just going to kill that!” she said of the expected increase in property tax bills.
Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Todd said the Chamber Board already voted to support the resolution once it’s finalized. Todd owns Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders, mentioned above as a business that will be devastated by property taxes over the next few years if nothing changes.
The District 215 School Board is also planning to pass the resolution once it’s finalized, with former School Board President Michael Bolz describing the board’s position as “very supportive.”
Lan-Oak Park District Superintendent Sharon Desjardins said the Lan-Oak Park Board would be “discussing and possibly acting on the resolution at its March 15 meeting.”
It is unclear if Sunnybrook School District 171 will vote to adopt the resolution.
Pressuring the assessor’s office
Podgorski said the goal for the resolution is not only to have Lansing’s public bodies adopt it but also get more widespread support.
“Resolutions, we know, are non-binding, but if we can get enough taxing bodies within Lansing, and possibly start to convince some taxing bodies outside of Lansing to do the same, possibly we can put together enough pressure on the Assessor’s Office to reconsider and to pay attention to the hardships that they’re placing on our property owners,” Podgorski said.
He also mentioned the Village would usually look to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association for guidance in these types of issues, but the Association is waiting to see some of the results from the property tax appeals process before taking any action.
“If enough taxing bodies would support resolutions like this, we may be able to force the assessor to adjust those assessed valuations just by raising the profile of the issue,” Podgorski said. “So, no guarantee that is this going to result in what we want, but we don’t have a chance of it if we don’t go down this path.”
An online portal for businesses in the meantime
As public bodies seek to effect change in the Assessor’s Office, the Village of Lansing has opened a portal on its website by which business property owners can send the Village basic information about their property reassessments. The Village hopes to collect examples of inequity in property reassessments in Lansing to be able to reference them in potential conversations with the Cook County Assessor’s Office in the future.
The portal, which asks property owners to submit their Property Index Number (PIN), 2019 assessed value, and 2020 assessed value, is available on the Village’s website.
“While knowingly they should be taking their challenges, their appeals, to the Board of Review and the Assessor’s Office, we are certainly willing to offer some assistance and to help,” Podgorski said during the February 17 Village Board meeting. “If nothing else, it may help us advocate—when we get the resolution adopted—it may help us cherry-pick a couple of examples that maybe we would attach to the resolution when we send it.”
- Property tax joint resolution, Freedom Church special use and variance—Village Board agenda 3/16/21 (March 13, 2021)
- Lansing businesses weigh options as property taxes spike (December 3, 2020)