On several occasions, State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) has insisted that appealing the property taxes of district businessmen and homeowners is just a part of constituent services. Illinois Review looked into how that works itself out in Froehlich's own neighborhood.
Rep. Froehlich lives on a cul de sac in Schaumburg, where all the houses are in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. According to the description on the Cook County Assessor's website, Froehlich's house has the smallest square footage (1501 sq ft) on his street and is the only house on the street with only one bathroom. Three other neighbors' property tax bills are comparable to the state rep's annual taxes of $4800. All others range from $5000 to $6000 annually.
A property assessment figure is a fraction of home's actual value, but the basis upon which property taxes are determined. Square footage, number of bathrooms and bedrooms, age of the building and sale prices of neighboring homes are all taken into consideration when determining the property assessment and annual property taxes.
It's a process that's flawed and complicated, Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider said. "There's no doubt the system needs to be revamped," he said. The system of appeals in Cook County is wrought with opportunities to influence the amount of taxes paid by business and home owners. Even among neighbors with similar houses, tax bills can differ hundreds or thousands of dollars.
So, how has this complicated system affected Rep. Froehlich's own home taxes and those of his neighbors?
The Cook County Board of Review's records do not indicate that Froehlich has appealed his own property's assessment in the last five years, but internet records show three others on his cul de sac have. Two of the three appeals resulted in substantially lowered assessments.
The second is next door to the Froehlichs', where the assessment on 2312 square foot home was lowered from $46,898 to $39,426. The 2006 assessment on that home was $38,886, before Cook County's tri-annual evaluation.
The third appeal in the neighborhood was for a 1,674 square foot home with 2.5 bathrooms. Despite an appeal to the assessment being raised from $33,660 in 2006 to $38,654 in 2007, the Board of Review granted no change as "a result of an analysis of relevant comparable properties, a recent sale and/or an update of your property's characteristics."
None of the three appeals listed an attorney representing them.
One house owner on the court claims a homeowners' and senior citizen's exemption. The property taxes are $5900 annually, and with 2430 sq ft, it's the second highest assessed home on the cul de sac, at $45,185. The Board of Review does not indicate an assessment appeal has been made since the tri-annual evaluation.
And yet another homeowner on the court pays $6055 a year on a home 1597 sq ft, assessed at $38,849. The house is currently for sale listed at $459,000. The Board of Reviews' website indicates that home owner has no Board of Review appeal outstanding.
Assessments on Froehlich's court range from his own lowest at $38,632 to the home assessed at $45,482 across the street. Altogether, Froehlich and his nine neighbors paid $51,555 in Cook County property taxes in 2007.
Board of Elections records indicate that none of those that appealed from Froehlich's neighborhood contributed to the Friends For Froehlich campaign fund.
(Graphics from Zillow.com and the Cook County Board of Review website. Click on graphics to enlarge.)
Other stories on Friends of Froehlich are found at www.illinoisreview.com.