The Chicago Tribune recently published an analysis of the unequal property tax system in Cook County, and enlisted the help of Christopher Berry, a professor at Harris and faculty director of the Master of Science Program in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP).
The three-series report revealed that the Chicago county system gives large property tax breaks to wealthier homeowners compared with working-class property owners. This staggering inequality has resulted from a flawed system of residential assessment by the Cook County assessor's office. As the Tribune writes: "Accurately estimating a property’s market value is crucial because that is the first number that goes into calculating property taxes. If the estimate is faulty, the fairness of the entire bill is thrown into doubt." In 2009, Berry was brought in with assistance from a MacArthur grant to develop a technical model that would provide accurate home valuation. The model was completed in 2010, but the county assessor, Joseph Berrios only showed it to his staff in July of 2013 -- and then never implemented the model. Berry and his team were unaware that their model was not being used until the Tribune contacted him in the spring of 2016. Berry commented: “If they are not using our model and are continuing to use the old model, then they missed an opportunity to reduce regressivity, which would have helped people who own the lowest-priced homes in the county...That would be inexcusable."
If you are interested in reading more about the case study and Berry's model, click here.
If you are interested in finding out more about the MSCAPP program, click here.