Almost verbatim to the scenario scripted in Part 3 of Illinois Review's "Friends of Froehlich series," a Schaumburg woman says she was surprised when she heard a knock at her door yesterday (4/16/09), and the person standing there was someone she'd read about online.
"I couldn't believe it", said Linda Young of South Cedarcrest Court. "[State Rep.] Paul Froehlich stood at my door with a clip board in hand and said he was our state representative, and was visiting people in his district because the Illinois House wasn't in session this week.
"He asked me if there was anything he could do to help us as our state representative. I told him, 'Yes, you can do something about our taxes.'"
Young said her property taxes had just gone up after last year's re-assessment. According to Young, Froehlich told her that he "used to be Schaumburg Township's tax assessor," and could help her get her taxes lowered if she'd "fill out a Board of Review assessment complaint."
Young said that Rep. Froehlich told her she would have an 85 percent chance of getting her property value lowered and her property taxes cut if he helped her with the process. "He told me that twice," Young said.
According to the Board of Review's website, April 17 is the first day Schaumburg residents will have to appeal their property values. After June 2, Schaumburg area property values will remain the same for three years, until the next Cook County's assessment rotation.
Young said the Board of Review form attached to Froehlich's clipboard had been partially filled out before he knocked. All she had to do was sign the complaint form. Then Froehlich gave Young a receipt and told her she'd be hearing from the Board of Reviews' office in a few weeks.
"This is the first time we've ever had a legislator knock at our door, and we've never had anyone come to our door and offer to help get our taxes lowered," Young said. "We lived in Lake Zurich for several years, and never heard from anyone then, either," she added.
In response to our earlier stories, Rep. Froehlich told Illinois Review that helping constituents appeal their property value assessments was a part of his constituent services.
Questions arose about Board of Review assessments and Froehlich's aggressive campaign to assist constituents with their property values when a document made public last month implied that a local hotel owner had agreed to donate to the Friends for Froehlich campaign. A handwritten note next to handwritten calculations on a Board of Reviews' amended property value assessment report indicated the property owner would save over $200,000 in taxes over three years, and that he would pay for Froehlich's campaign workers lodging and yard signs. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, such an in-kind contribution was made on behalf of Froehlich.
Republicans in Chicago say this kind of implied favor exchanging can only go on when the members of the county's tax review board are also members of the same political party, or have some sort of undue influence with those who determine property values.
Property values are based on market trends and judgment calls by appraisers. Such a relative system of evaluation is fraught with opportunities to "influence".
“This is a Democrat tactic we’ve heard of for years in the City of Chicago," Chicago Republican Chairman Eloise Gerson told Illinois Review. "Only Democrats can tell property owners they have a great chance of getting their taxes lowered at the Board of Review, since the Democratic Party’s Cook County Chairman, Joe Berrios, sits on the Board and decides the appeals,” she said. Gerson questioned whether the Democrats are turning Republican suburbs blue by going house to house and promising hundreds of dollars of saving a year by using influence to lower property tax bills.
“No Republican could give such an assurance, nor should they,” Gerson said.
IR asked Mrs. Young if she would feel obligated to support Rep. Froehlich in the future if she knew he helped her save hundreds of dollars in her tax bill. "I don't know," she said. "But I'm sure it would make me stop and think a little."
Young took a photo of Froehlich's car with her phone's camera (see right), and borrowed leaflets he left on her neighbor's door and sent copies to Illinois Review.
"I guess we'll see whether we get our assessment lowered now or not," Young said.
Related stories in the Friends of Froehlich series