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Five takeaways from an assessment workshop with Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (August 24, 2023) – Roughly 200 people gathered in South Suburban College’s Kindig Performing Arts Center Wednesday night to hear from Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, whose office has given many local residents uncertainty about their upcoming tax bills.

Kaegi’s South Holland appearance is the latest in a blitzkrieg public relations campaign in collaboration with Thornton Township Assessor Cassandra Elston to answer questions about property re-assessments, many of which have spiked for local property owners.

Wednesday night’s assessment workshop began with a welcome from Thornton Township Assessor Cassandra Elston. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Kaegi and the John McDonnell, Director of Multifamily Development at the Cook County Assessor’s Office, made a 40-minute presentation explaining how the property re-assessment system works in Cook County, and how residents can effectively appeal their property’s assessed value. Kaegi also spent over 30 minutes answering submitted questions from residents.

Roughly 200 people attended the assessment workshop at the South Suburban College’s Kindig Performing Arts Center. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Below are five takeaways from Wednesday’s workshop:

1. An assessment increase will not result in the same tax increase

“If everyone’s assessment is rising at the same time, a change in your assessment almost certainly doesn’t mean the same change in your taxes. That’s one of the most important things I want everyone to leave with tonight,” Kaegi told attendees.

He likened the overall amount of taxes levied by a community to a dinner bill. The school districts, park districts, village, township, county, and other local bodies all determine how much money they will need to collect in taxes to operate. That total becomes the “dinner bill” that must be paid by everyone at the table, that is, property owners.

“We use assessments to divide that dinner bill amongst us. Your share of total assessed value in the community is your share of that fixed amount that has to be raised,” Kaegi said.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

A 50% increase in the assessed value of a property, therefore, would not increase the owner’s share of the tax burden if everyone else’s property assessment went up the same amount.

“You need to think about not only how much is your assessment up, but how much is the community’s assess value up? If you’re up about the same as the community, your tax bill might not change at all,” Kaegi said.

2. You won’t know the impact of this year’s assessment until next year

One question from the audience read, in part, “Assessor Kaegi, if your market value increased by 30%, how much does it increase your real estate tax before all of my exemptions? Is it 10%? 300%? What’s it going to be?”

“This is a really good question,” Kaegi said. “We actually can’t tell you what your tax bill is going to be next year.”

Kaegi said the appeals process with the Cook County Assessor’s Office, as well as the Cook County Board of Review, takes time. As new property values are determined in the appeals process, that change has an effect on each property’s portion of the tax burden. Additionally, he said, each taxing body needs to determine its tax levy for next year.

Many residents came with their reassessment documents and took notes. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Kaegi suggested residents use the Assessor’s Office’s online tool to look at community trends to see how much other assessments are up compared to their own, and thereby judge if their tax bill will substantially increase.

Residents won’t know exactly how their taxes will be affected until 2024.

“You got reassessed in 2023. That will be reflected in the second installment [tax bill] of 2024,” McDonnell said. “The value on that reassessment notice, in a year, will be the one that’s reflected on your tax bill.”

Second installment bills are usually released in the fall, according to the Cook County Treasurer’s website.

3. Assessed values are going up because south suburban property is more in demand

“The value of property for single family homes, for condos, and for two to six flats in Thornton Township is up. It’s good news,” Kaegi said. “It means that all of us who had to withstand all the doldrums of the housing market over the last 15 years … For everyone who stuck it out, the values of your homes are on the rise.”

Kaegi said the average typical single family home in Thornton Township sold in 2018 for $90,000, while in 2022 it sold for $152,000.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi explains that housing prices have gone up in Thornton Township since 2018. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“After COVID hit in 2020, people started to realize that there were great houses [in the south suburbs] available for a reasonable price. So people started buying them,” he said, adding that many homeowners’ houses are therefore more valuable than before — even though they may not have constructed an addition or remodeled.

In response to a question about the relationship between the real estate market and property assessments, Kaegi said, “Assessments are going up because of the bidding war and more people wanting to buy here. It’s true.”

4. Filing an appeal is an easy process — and it’s necessary

“We know we can be off the mark when we do this,” Kaegi said. “You’re the world’s biggest expert on your own home, and the appeals process is your chance to show us what we didn’t already know.”

Kaegi and McDonnell encouraged Thornton Township residents who think their property was inaccurately valued to file an appeal with the Assessor’s Office online. This process, they explained, is simple and does not required the help of an attorney.

John McDonnell, Director of Multifamily Development at the Cook County Assessor’s Office. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Some especially important aspects of an appeal:

  • Square footage — “If the building square footage that’s on your reassessment notice is not correct, it’s grounds for you to file [an appeal],” McDonnell said.
  • Property Identification Number (PIN) — McDonnell said some property owners take the time to submit their appeal but fail to include the PIN — a crucial part of the process. The PIN is included on the property reassessment notice and can also be found online by searching for your property’s address.
  • Comparables — This part of an appeal allows residents to show similar property values to the Assessor’s Office as evidence that their property has been overvalued.
  • Narrative — The online appeal form includes a “Narrative” section in which residents can explain their rationale for why their property is overvalued. “What we didn’t know already are those things that are specific about your house that you can tell us in the narrative,” Kaegi said.

Thornton Township residents have until September 5, 2023, to file their appeals on the Cook County Assessor’s website. Thornton Township Assessor’s Cassandra Elston’s office is available to assist residents with the process as well — email [email protected].

The appeal window for Bloom Township residents has already closed.

“We know we can be off. If we’re within industry standards on 1.9 million properties, that still means we’re off on hundreds of thousands of properties,” Kaegi said.

5. Local residents are feeling uncertain, but also hopeful

The amount of people that attended Wednesday’s event, as well as the many questions that were submitted, confirm that local residents are feeling uncertain about their financial futures.

Even despite Kaegi’s chorus that a drastic increase in assessed value doesn’t equate to the same drastic increase in taxes, the fact that homeowners won’t know exactly if/how much their taxes will hike until next fall creates consternation.

However, the event did seem to achieve its desired outcome of educating and assuaging. One resident who owns property in Lansing told The Lansing Journal after the event that he feels “there is hope.”

Mack, a Thornton Township resident, said Kaegi answered many of his questions, but he also acknowledged, “I know my taxes are still going up.”

To learn more about property assessments, how to appeal them, and how they may affect your taxes, visit the Cook County Assessor’s website or call 312-443-7550. The Thornton Township Assessor’s office can be reached at [email protected].


Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.


  1. Great coverage on the property tax meeting! I don’t live in Cook County but the taxation methodology is most likely standard in other tax districts as well. I learned something and I appreciate that.

  2. Assessor’s Office blew it again; my property supposedly went up $40,000 in assessed value in one year. The Assessor’s must have used the same ‘data’ some automated value estimators used in 2022; nobody would pay $95,000 for my house under any market conditions. The only offer I got was $55,000, so I filed my appeal already with the Assessor’s Office. But I’m sure it will be going to the Board of Review next; my last Assessor’s Appeal resulted in them offering to lower the value a whopping…wait for it!…$500! The Board lowered it back to the old amount because it was badly out of line with comparable properties. Ah, the Crook County property tax system…

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