Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where is the Homeowner's Exemption Revenue Going, Houlihan...?

Dear Mr. James M. Houlihan,

Please see the following document,

http://www.docstoc.com/batch/iwKWZMKA3Imgk8LoKGGq-A==/crookedcounty/2009-03-29

Where I'd like to point out that the majority of my local taxing districts actually lowered their tax rates between taxation years 2006 and 2007, paid in 2007 and 2008. But, nonetheless, it appears that all of my local districts still received more money when you misinterpreted my homestead exemption in 35 ILCS 200. Could you please confirm for me that all of those districts did, indeed, receive all of the extra money they ought not to have received? And since I know how forgetful you can be when it comes to responding to taxpayer requests for information, I'd like to make it clear that I'm asking under the umbrella of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This is in addition to my current FOIA request outstanding where I asked you to provide the advertisement revenues from the Cook County Assessor's website. Please let me know if you need me to re-send the original request to you via U.S. Certified Mail.

Your Victim Truly,

David

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let's Solve this Problem...

Dear Media, Lobbyists, Trade Groups, Banks, Politicians, and Persons of Interest,

You have received a postcard, letter, or email stating that there is a really unfair property tax policy in Illinois that actually taxes people who bought at the top of the real estate market two years later, after the market crashed. Here is my letter to the person responsible for fixing this problem,

http://houlihancancorrectexemptions.blogspot.com/


Who I believe is expediting the problem of foreclosures in Illinois more than any possible bailout package, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,

http://www.recovery.gov/


Or the Obama mortgage plan,

http://www.financialstability.gov/

Could possibly ever hope to help address such a problem. And this particular policy is so contradictory to the national conversation about the housing crisis, that I feel it needed a page of it's own. And that's what this page is about: creating awareness of the homeowner's exemption in Illinois, and directing people to confront James Houlihan, Cook County Assessor, to ask him to fix this problem before it's too late.

And with your help in circulating, discussing, and reporting this issue, we might be able to save a lot of homes from being unnecessarily foreclosed upon.

Cordially,

David N. Jenkins
Victim of the Cook County Assessor's Office

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What this Blog is About...?

People just don't know how bad it really is in Cook County. And that's why I created this blog about property taxes. And this is NOT a site where I can complain about paying more taxes. It's about letting the public know WHO is expected to pay these taxes, and why:

In Cook County, there are, essentially, two different types of problems when it comes to homeowners being overtaxed on their property tax bills:

1) Assessment problems
2) Exemption problems

My issue is an exemption problem, which is very rare (more on this below). The overwhelming majority of people with property tax issues fall into the first bucket: assessment problems. And for this particular type of problem, we have a lot of wonderful, and fair, tools to assist homeowners who intend to seek justice. Here are the steps you can take to get your property tax assessment corrected:

1) Appeal your assessment to the Cook County Assessor’s Office. This step is, more or less, a formality. There exists an unlikely chance that the Assessor’s Office will lower your assessment, but you should take the next step regardless of the Assessor’s response to your appeal.

2) Appeal your assessment to the Board of Review (BOR). Statistically, they are a lot more likely to lower your assessment. The real goal of Step #1 is to get here. They will issue a re-certification of your property in most instances where the Assessor’s Office will not.

3) Regardless of the results you’ve received in the first two steps, you should always appeal your decision to the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board (PTAB). If your assessment appeal was declined in the previous two steps, this is your last step in the process to get it lowered. Even if you were successful in either, or both, of the previous two steps, you should still pursue an appeal with the PTAB. It can only result in your assessment being lowered even more.

And these steps should be taken by every Cook County property owner every year. Otherwise, Cook County will raise your assessment, and you’ll be right back to where you started in no time. That’s how life is when you live in the most corrupt county in the United States. And if you’re not ready to have an active relationship with your county government, or prepared to spend at least several hours a week researching property assessments, I would suggest buying a home somewhere other than Cook County.

But I have an exemption issue, which is much harder to correct because of politics. And this particular type of problem starts, and ends with, the Cook County Assessor’s Office. And when you go to the Assessor’s Office, the first thing that they will tell you is that they’re following state law:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=596&ChapAct=35%A0ILCS%A0200%2F&ChapterID=8&ChapterName=REVENUE&ActName=Property+Tax+Code

But the law actually has a certain amount of subjectivity built into it. This is for the benefit of the assessor who can interpret it, and apply the exemption as he or she feels is appropriate. But you can’t understand the problem unless you understand the game. And that’s where politics comes into play.

The Problem: Politics

If the Cook County Assessor raises the assessment, there’s a good chance that the BOR or PTAB will lower it. This means that the assessor’s attempt to stick you with the bill for the increased county expenditures is unsuccessful. So he then looks to a different approach to get the extra money that he or she wants: the homestead exemption.

The homestead exemption, or homeowners’ exemption, and how it is applied, can seem quite complicated. Especially considering how it’s presented to the public by an assessor who benefits greatly from his constituency not fully understanding it. So the more tools he can put on his website to help you calculate your exemption, and explain it in terms of a piece of legislation called the 7% cap; the better a position he is in when the majority of taxpayers walk away in frustration. And the icing on the cake is his explanation that he’s simply following state law.

But the law he’s referring to, 35 ILCS 200/15‑176, which I’ve conveniently provided to you in the link above, actually gives him the authority to make almost any decision concerning your exemption. And since the law itself gives him that capacity, he is by virtue only following state law by making almost any decision he makes. So it is simply a play on words, and he has a broad range of options regarding your homestead exemption under this statute.

But to tell a constituent the full truth concerning his true powers under the law would negate his position in the bigger political picture, because of the cat-and-mouse struggle between Cook County and the Illinois General Assembly. And at this point, I’m not sure who, exactly, the cat is; and, who, exactly is the mouse. What I do know is that the property tax relief legislation, otherwise known as the "7% Property Assessment Cap", was heavily favored by Jim Houlihan, the current Cook County Assessor. And since he has an interest in seeing this bill made permanent, he does not want to let the Illinois General Assembly unanswerable to what he feels is the solution to Cook County’s problems. In other words, he’d be negating his stance on this bill as a solution by correcting the problem himself. He’d rather push the legislature into action, which also means hurting the constituents with his excessive homeowner exemption policy.

And with money from the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on its way to Cook County right now, why are they taxing the very people for whom this law was passed to help protect? Because, although the state law concerning the assessor’s powers is subjective enough that he can almost do whatever he wants, it is specific enough that it allows him to tax the people who purchased a home in 2006. But it does not state specifically that he has to do this. It only states that he can. And since his primary objective is to make the 7% Cap Legislation permanent, he’s made the decision that it’s okay to let the homeowners, neighborhoods, and the greater economy be sacrificed as collateral damage in a political game. Because it's all about getting what he wants.

And that’s what this blog is about. It’s my attempt to stop the hemorrhaging in a political system that simply doesn’t care any longer about the constituents. That is Illinois. And that is Cook County.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still Looking For Houlihan's Mysterious Law...

Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR)
James R. Thompson Center
Concourse Level
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601-3274

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dear IDOR,

As you know, the state of Illinois and Cook County are both expecting a big federal stimulus check some time in the near future. However, there is an existing problem already affecting Illinois property owners in Cook County that conflicts with the intent of the passage of this stimulus. Of course, IDOR, I’m referring to the Cook County Assessor’s Office policy of taxing each property parcel an additional $1,500.00 if that property’s owner purchased their home in 2006. Arbitrarily, that tax was applied in the second installment of 2008, and was edited into each property owner’s tax bill as an exemption loss. This is an important point, IDOR, because the Board of Review and Illinois's Property Tax Appeals Board cannot correct an exemption; they can only review the assessment itself.

And as I’m sure you are aware, 2006 was the year for which real estate pricetags reached their peak. And since then, IDOR, prices across the board are much lower than they were at that time. So if you, or anyone on your staff, purchased a house in that year, you would know that real estate prices have gone down significantly since then. And you would be the proud owner of an underwater home; “underwater” meaning that your mortgage payoff amount is likely more expensive than the property’s value. In quite a number of cases, IDOR, the path that many people in Illinois are choosing is foreclosure. And when enough people foreclose on their homes, it trickles out and affects the larger economy: hence, the recent stimulus bill that was passed by our federal government.

But here is where this matter concerns you, IDOR: Cook County Assessor, Jim Houlihan, maintains that his department is just following the rule of law. This is a point that I cannot necessarily disagree with, because my interpretation of Illinois’s Compiled Statutes in 35 ILCS 200/ seem to indicate that almost any course of action followed by a county assessor is supported by the law. In other words, how could an assessor break a law that is designed to give that person the authority to interpret it, and apply it? And since his office has repeatedly stated that, by correcting my homeowner’s exemption, he would be breaking the law, I’ve set out to find the law he is referencing; and I thought you, IDOR, might be of some assistance in this matter. Could you please reference the compiled statute that states, specifically, where the Cook County Assessor would be breaking the law by correcting my exemption? I’ve been searching for this law since October, and I just cannot find it.

Thank you, IDOR, for your time and consideration.

Cordially,

David N. Jenkins
crookedcountyillinois@yahoo.com

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Letter to Chase/Fifth Third Bank(s) Requesting Forbearance...

Dear Members of the Board,

Regretfully, I must inform you that I’ll need to request a forbearance application if I’m to continue paying my mortgage. As you may or may not know, I’ve never been late on a single payment in my entire life. And my credit score is very high. However, my financial situation has drastically changed since I mortgaged my home with your bank.

I’ve actually created a blog to track my issue,

http://therearecrooksinillinois.blogspot.com/

Which is far more complicated than just a simple property tax assessment dispute; as I have been repeatedly denied the right to appeal my homeowner’s exemption with the Cook County Assessor’s Office. This is a right that other Illinois taxpayers have been given in other counties by their assessors’ offices. But because of a culture of corruption that existed under Illinois’s previous governor, Rod Blagojevich, the entire state of Illinois, as I intend to prove, has decided not to interfere with how James Houlihan, Cook County Assessor, conducts his dirty business. In fact, he’s had the interests of these individuals as a priority,

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/Investigation_Reveals_BackDoor_Pay_Raises_for_Cook_Co_Commissioners


Before the rights of the Cook County property owner. And his staff have made it abundantly clear in my situation that I have no rights in regards to this particular issue because of a departmental rule, which he defines as a state law when addressing taxpayers who are attempting to seek fair and equitable property tax treatment. Mind you that he has not yet provided evidence that such law exists, despite my repeated attempts to obtain this information in writing. His staff will, however, talk to me on the phone, and each give me inconsistent versions of what they think are the rules governing the administration of homeowners’ exemptions in Cook County.

But it has always been my allegation that, yes, he may be following state law, but that does not mean that state law binds him such a way that he must withhold exemption money from me as he has. That is actually a policy decision, and it is my belief he is disseminating misinformation into the public space in this regards to minimize objections, and maximize revenue. And after six months of seeking proof of this assertion that he is only following the rule of law, I have nothing in writing to indicate that this is true. Nor can I submit such documents to public scrutiny, as is clearly needed in my particular case.

This is where your organization can be of assistance to me. And I can be of assistance to you in return. In tough times such as these, it is important that banks and property owners work together when governments are corrupt. Individually, we have limited power, but together we’re a force more powerful than even the most corrupt government in the United States: Illinois. It is for that reason I’m asking you for more than just a forbearance application, which is only a short-term solution if the original problem is not corrected. Instead, I’d like a more meaningful solution that benefits all of us fairly, and equally. What I would really like is for my particular issue to be added to the docket of ongoing issues discussed with your lobbying and/or government relations firms. And if I could talk to them and present my story, that would be a definite plus.

What is my issue? Well, I’ll do my best to explain. The Cook County Assessor’s Office has actually reduced the amount of the homeowners’ exemption it gives to Cook County property owners who bought on, or after, 2006, but not to everyone else. And not only did they apply this, arbitrarily, in the second (fall) installment in 2008, but they did so without any advanced notification or any plan to assist taxpayers who were surprised by this remarkably sharp increase. Presumably, the withholding of such exemption will continue to be directed at those who bought in 2007, arbitrarily in the second (fall) installment of 2009, and again each year thereafter. And as of the writing of this letter, I don’t believe they’re making any plans to actually contact these individuals that such a drastic change in their property taxes is on its way. If you would like to know the specific details of my increase, you can find all the documents in the blog posting above. And I can almost guarantee you that this has been handled across all of Cook County with as much impropriety as has been shown in my particular situation.

It goes without saying that this type of tax treatment is as detrimental to you as it is to me. I’m sure the last problem you’d like to have is an increased number of forbearances, or foreclosures. And as difficult as it’s been for banking institutions like yours to mitigate loan defaults, I’m sure the last thing in the world you needed is for local governments to actually step in and aggravate the situation, as it’s getting worse, rather than to lessen its impact. But that’s exactly what Cook County is doing. And although it troubles me to report to you that that is what is transpiring, the good news is that now you know.

Please take action accordingly.

Cordially,

David N. Jenkins
Property Index Number (PIN): 16-20-208-022-0000

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Illinois's Response to Corruption in Cook County: Complacency So Far...

If anyone has read this posting,

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/1422442,chicago-miserable-city-forbes-021009.article

Where Chicago was ranked by Forbes magazine as being the 3rd worst most miserable city in America? It’s easy to see just why Chicago is being held in such poor regards by so many people. Take my situation for example. Where I was expecting a $2,000 property tax installment due back in October of 2008, I instead received a bill for $3,846.02. Now if I lived anywhere else in the country, I’d have had this issue long resolved. But if you remembered this investigative report by Fox News Chicago,

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/Investigation_Reveals_BackDoor_Pay_Raises_for_Cook_Co_Commissioners

You know that that money has to come from somewhere. So, in February of 2009, I’m posting this blog to summarize just how much progress I’ve made in trying to bring justice to an unjust situation. And where my taxes went up 45% in a single day, with no warnings or notifications, I want the public to see just how hard it is if you’re looking to get results in the nation’s most corrupt county (in the most corrupt state). This is my story:

My Street

I live on the 1300 Block of South 59th CT. It's a quiet, tree-lined street in pseudo-suburban Cicero, IL. It's one of those streets where most of the homes conform to the standard Chicago-style bungalow design. In other words, there' s not a whole lot of variation.

I'm not putting my street down, of course. I happen to be a big fan of the Chicago-style bungalow. Which is a big part of why I found Cicero to be so interesting. It's a community that is rich in architecture, history, and culture.

2006 - The Homeowner's Exemption

But I experienced problems with Cook County right from the start. After having purchased my home in May of 2006, I received my first property tax bill in September from the Cook County Assessor's Office.

Where the previous owner was paying $3,800 for the whole year, I was being asked to pay $4,178.83 for a single installment!!! A little over $6,000 for the whole year!!! Certainly this bill is incorrect, I thought!!!! But it was, technically, correct.

In Cook County, the taxes are so high that no one would dare pay them. In other words, there's a huge gap between what the Cook County government thinks it should get, and what its residents could actually afford to pay. Alot of this has do do with corruption. And rather than to deal with this rather large difference through budget cuts, the county instead addresses it through courting legislation with the Illinois General Assembly.

So as long as the state of Illinois passes legislation that the Cook County Assessor deems appropriate, most homeowner's don't notice the homeowner's exemption on their bill that reduces the amount of taxes they have to pay. But in some cases, the homeowner's exemption may not be applied.

In this case, the previous owner forgot to apply for his/her exemption earlier in the year (before I bought the house). At the time, the exemption had to be proactively renewed by each Cook County homeowner. And if homeowners forgot to apply for that exemption, or didn't know they should, then they simply owed $2,000 more to Cook County than would otherwise be requested. And the Treasurer's Office would still accept that payment, because that's Cook County. And, yes, many people overpaid their taxes, which is great for Chicagoland's many property tax recovery firms. And especially great for all the free money that I'm sure the County still has from overpayments.

But in 2006, I marched down to the County Building and visited the Assessor's Office in person. It was then that I was issued a Certificate of Error; which is the document that the Assessor's Office issues in the rare instances they're willing to admit a mistake. But it wasn't easy. I had to stand in line all day, and argue with a lot of angry Cook County Assessor's Office employees. And despite all the long lines and abuse, all the taxpayers just took it; because the consequences of arguing with someone in the Assessor's Office can be fatal. It was there that I first learned that buying a home in Cook County, Illinois was a huge mistake.

But that wasn't the end of it. Since I agreed to escrow my property taxes with my mortgage company, they sent out the full $4,178.83 to Cook County (before I could show them the Certificate of Error). Then they jacked-up my monthly escrow payment. And in order to get that money back from Cook County government, I had to fill out a form and wait two-and-a-half months. When I finally got my refund check, I sent it to the mortgage company to offset my escrow account. But I still had one huge problem: the mortgage company's records indicated that my taxes were more than $6,000 a year. So my escrow payment continued to stay high, and I actually had to re-finance in 2007 to get out from under it. For the record, Cook County refused to send records to the mortgage company indicating that my taxes weren't actually that high. They also refused to send the refund directly to the mortgage company (which would have made it obvious that my taxes weren't actually that ridiculous).

2007 - Relatively Peaceful

In Cook County, the property taxes are billed out to cover the previous year's residency,

















So I received my property taxes for 2006 (in 2007), and the amount of taxes I had to pay weren't ideal. But it was still relatively manageable. And at least in the same relative ballpark as my neighbors. I did file an appeal with the County Assessor's Office (denied) and the Board of Review (denied) to have my assessment lowered.











But my next door neighbor (at 1330) seemed to have some success with the Cook County Board of Review (the agency that reviews the work of the Cook County Assessor's Office). And he owns a multi-unit building with paying tenants. He also lives in Texas, which is strange considering that one of the rules of claiming the ridiculous homeowner's exemption is that you should actually live in the house that you're claiming it for. But they enforce that at random. Just like they apply the homeowner's exemption at random.

2008 - the Scariest Year of My Life


2008 started out like the previous year. And my tax bill was similar to what it had been before. But then came my bill in October 2008. It was almost double the amount I had to pay in the previous installment. Overnight, my taxes had gone up 45%.

So in early October, I called the Cook County Assessor's Office. They said that my bill was correct. And they also asserted that there was nothing I could do about it. "Just pay it" they said.

But like most of my fellow U.S. citizens, I don't like being told that I just have to do something without questioning it. It's Un-American. I also don't like to be told that I have no rights to an appeal. Our whole system of democracy is based on checks and balances, and due process. And wherever there is an injustice, there's some process, or means, by which we can seek resolution. And the system may not be perfect, but it's intent is usually fairness. However, fairness and the law are two completely distinct matters. And I have since learned that you cannot expect fairness in a system as blatantly corrupt as Cook County.

Return of the Homeowner's Exemption and the Crooked Cook County Assessor's Office

So I took the day off of work, and went down to the Cook County building on October 8th, 2008. I waited in line all day, and eventually spoke to someone who told me:

A) Schools had already been built, so it was inappropriate for me to say that I'm being asked to pay too much when the county needed more money from me to pay its bills.

B) It had been many years since that particular employee had received a pay raise.

C) Many more property owners were paying far more in taxes than I was being asked to pay. And when I presented a six-inch binder with all the Treasurer’s Office and Assessor’s Office property characteristics for every resident on the 1300 Block of South 59TH CT, he refused to look at them. He said that he didn’t need to because they had access to all of that information, which presumably would have been reviewed before my tax bill was mailed out. In my case, it was not.

D) It was made clear to me that my homeowner exemption was the real issue. Where it had been $2,061.40 the year before, it had now been reduced to $513.50. That's a $1,500 difference that I had to make up. So where my taxes had gone up over $1,800 in one fell swoop, only $300 or so were actual increases. The rest was simply a reduction in my homeowner's exemption.

E) Most importantly, the person I spoke to was able to look-up some of my neighbors, and then told me that they were all getting the full $2,000+ exemption, where I was not. Great. I thought. Let's go ahead and correct it.

But the man refused to do the right thing. You see, it's the Assessor's Office policy to base the homeowner's exemption on the year of purchase. So, arbitrarily, they knocked-off 75% of the exemption to everyone who purchased a home in 2006. But they arbitrarily applied it to the 2nd installment of the tax bill in 2008. And to them, this makes perfect sense. Because it's all based on a formula that only they, the Cook County Assessor's Office, understands.

Cook County Board of Review - the Good Guys Who Can't Help You

So I immediately complained to my elected representatives to the General Assembly: Sen. Martin Sandoval and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez. Representative Hernandez had received so many complaints about Assessor's Office property tax errors, that she hosted a special outreach event at the Olympic Theater in Cicero, where local residents came and met directly with the Cook County Board of Review representatives on October 16th. I got to make the acquaintance of a man named Raul, who took a look at my property tax bill and informed me that my homeowner's exemption was in error. He said that the Assessor's Office could correct it for me very simply, but the Board of Review lacked the authority to make a correction to an exemption. They could only accept my application to appeal the assessment, but not the exemption issue I was having. And when I told him that I already had trouble with the Assessor's Office, he referred me to my elected Cook County Commissioner, Tony Peraica.

The Crook County Board of Commissioners

The Cook County Board of Commissioners is an organization with 17 elected Commissioners, and one elected Board President. Here's a nice summary of the structure of this organization,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cook_County_Board_of_Commissioners

And up until just recently, the majority of these Commissioners had been receiving money from a slush fund,

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/Back_Door_Pay_Raises_for_Cook_County_Commissioners_End

And this had been happening for some 20+ years. So while I'm receiving an $1,800+ increase in my taxes last year, and truthfully not really able to pay it, these individuals were looking for ways to burn $1,200/month. Two of the Commissioners even declared it to the IRS as income. Which is a violation of state law, and remains unprosecuted by any of the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's nine offices. So they're having a party while the average homeowner is supposed to suffer? And the state doesn't think that action needs to be taken, or restitution pursued?

But, despite my disdain for the Cook County Board Commissioners, it's my opinion that my elected Commissioner, Tony Peraica, is one of the good guys. And when I called his office in October of 2008, I met a wonderful woman named Gigi. She agreed with me that my homeowner's exemption problem was certainly an issue. And she repeatedly followed-up with the Cook County Assessor's Office contacts she had on the inside. And she followed-up with her contacts at the Cook County Board of Review, concerning my dispute with the property's assessment. She even helped me prepare my strategy concerning the disputes I was having on these two fronts.

But even a representative of a Cook County Board Commissioner on official business, could not get the Cook County Assessor's Office to correct my exemption. In fact, they wouldn't even admit that there was a problem with it. Something that I know everyone who looks at my tax bill on this site will agree is just plain wrong. And no matter how many times they were asked to correct this. They simply refused. And this process of asking and being denied continued on until February of this year.

There's a New Sheriff in Town

At this point, I'm sure all of you can imagine my frustration. I'm down and out. I feel defeated by a system that seems intended to invoke misery and despair. I borrowed the money and paid the ridiculous $3,846.02. What can I say? I didn't want to lose my house.But then came the news that we have a new Governor on January 29th, 2009:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/blagojevich/1404717,patrick-quinn-now-governor-012909.article

Great, I thought. He's going to "fumigate state government"!!! Awesome. Yeah, James Houlihan!!! Your days are numbered!!! There's a new guy running the state, and he's not going to put up with your crackpot schemes to steal money from unsuspecting homeowners!!! And he worked for the Cook County Board of Review?!!! And he wrote a book about appealing your property taxes?!!! Our savior has arrived!!!! Finally, I can get some relief. I can stop mulling over my finances and start sleeping again at night.

But then my next property tax bill came in the mail. And although it's not as high as the last one, the first installment of every year is always the smallest bill when you live in the U.S.'s most crooked county. It's an estimate that's 50% of the previous year's bill. So in my case, the previous year's taxes were arbitrarily, and unnecessarily high ($5,860.58). So where my bill last year around this time was around $2,000, this year it's $2,930.29...? And that's on top of the additional $1,800+ I paid in October. For those keeping track, that's $6,776.31, and the Assessor's Office doesn't think there's a problem?

And this isn't even the biggest problem I have. You see, I bought my home for $230k, and I probably couldn't sell it for more than $150k today. And aside from the homeowner's exemption error and the fact that my stupid county assessor raised my taxes in a market where my house depreciated 35%, he actually re-assessed my whole

township UPWARDS...? I've actually requested that the U.S. Attorney's office investigate Cook County Assessor James Houlihan for illegal drug use because he is definately high!!!! But more importantly, it doesn't appear that they have taken any action on the issue with the Cook County Commissioners who were breaking the law by stealing taxpayer money.

And with an Assessed Valuation (which is a trivial and meaningless figure that only the Assessor's Office uses because real numbers would level the playing field between taxpayers and county officials) of 21,824, my taxes last year came out to be $5,860.58, on a block where almost everyone else is getting the full exemption. and paying $3,500 - $4,200 a year.

But in October of 2009, the Assessed Valuation figure jumps to 25,909. Can anyone imagine what that will do to my taxes? I can't. And I won't be around when that happens 'cause I see foreclosure as a better option than slavery. But in Cook County, anything is possible. And we thought Blagojevich was a bad guy? I'd say trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, as bad as it is, is pretty tame compared to Houlihan's approach of setting fire to the housing market. So why isn't the mass media grilling this incompetent bastard? Good question.

So in February, I said enough's enough and I contacted Governor Pat Quinn's office in Springfield. I wronte down the Governor's fax line, and since then I've been forwarding all the documentation pertinent to my case to his office. And although I have yet to receive a response from the Governor himself, I at least have the comfort of knowing that his office knows that there is corruption right underneath it.

The Property Tax Appeals Board - Because Taxpayers Need To Pay for Two Board of Reviews

One of the Governor's Office's assistants referred me to the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board. And I received a favorable response from them indicating that I do have the right to contest my homeowner's exemption. And the implication here is that this is generally decided by each county assessor. All along, the Cook County Assessor's Office has denied me that right.


This issue has gone on since October of 2008, and still persists. Here are the list of people who have been notified: The Cook County Assessor's Office, The Board of Review, The Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board, Representative Elizabeth Hernandez, Senator Martin Sandoval, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica and his assistant Gigi, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Governor Pat Quinn, and Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich.

And the biggest problem is that no one in this group is taking this issue seriously. Because in Illinois, it's all about the money. And if you ever try to mess with their cash crop, they'll blacklist you before taking action.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Building a New Ship Vs. Plugging the Hole...

If anyone has read about the "The Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008",

http://turbotax.intuit.com/support/kb/tax-content/tax-tips/6360.html

I just don't get it. They keep continuing to overlook us. I don't need a stimulus, tax credit, or any assistance from the government. I just need my property taxes to go down, so I can pay what others in my neighborhood are paying for comparable properties. Right now, my taxes are about $2,000.00 more than I would pay for a property on my block with the same assessment-level, and only because Cook County arbitrarily doesn't like that I bought my house in 2006.

There is plenty of information in my posts below if you'd like more information on this issue.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stop Talking and Start Doing, Mr. Houlihan...

If anyone has read this recent article about Cook County Asssessor James Houlihan,

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/1388714,CST-NWS-assess21.article

I think almost everyone agrees that this guy needs to shut his mouth and start doing some work. His excuse for avoiding re-assessments this time is that he can't afford the $1.3 million cost of mailing notices to comply with state law. He didn't notify me when my taxes went up $1,800+ this year. Can someone please explain to me the state law he's referring to? I'd like to see it in writing.

Several months ago, his excuse was that he couldn't get a meeting scheduled with Todd Stroger, the Cook County Board President, to discuss a possible "circuit breaker" that would give people a small portion of their money back (that everyone agrees has been overpaid in Cook County taxes). It's always "something" with this guy and he'd have us all believe that everyone else can solve this problem except him. Where are Mr. Houlihan's bright ideas? I don't think that he has any.

He wasn't elected to hold hands with the County Board, or the state legislature. He was elected to assess property values. And since elected, he's put an enomorous strain on the Cook County Board of Review, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, and the Illinois General Assembly, who have had to do his job for him. And instead of lowering assessments, he grasps at everything else: legislation, circuit breakers, standard adjustments, etc. I have an idea: why doesn't the assessor just lower the assessment if he thinks it's too high? He should change the numbers that he controls, and stop looking for everyone else to give him something or change their numbers.

For those who are just getting started (with this issue), here's a website that I find to be a bit helpful,

http://www.themortgagereports.com/cook_county/

Scroll down to the postings titled "Cook County 7% Property Tax Exemption May Expire" and "The Exodus From Cook County Makes Sense".

Friday, December 19, 2008

TIF Abuse When There's No Oversight...

What is the real elephant in the room? TIFs, which is the acronym for "Tax Increment Financing",

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_increment_financing

Which is nothing exclusive to Illinois, but is commonly used for community development across the country. However, it's also the most common vehicle for which lawmakers are able to steal money from their constituents. California has actually passed legislation to curb this abuse where nominally present. But what makes Illinois unique is the scale in which it's being abused in cities like Chicago,

http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/theworks/080807/

But the scariest part, and perhaps the reason why TIF-abuse is so pervasive in northern Illinois, is because the Illinois state legislature has passed no legislation to deal with it. Ever. So if you live in what the national media commonly refers to as "the most corrupt state", and there exists no law to prevent this kind of abuse, then what else can you expect but rampant thievery. And I almost can't even blame the people doing the stealing.

To use an analogy that I'm sure all of us can relate to: how fast would you drive on a highway where there was no speeding limit? Pretty fast, I'm sure. Pretty fast, indeed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Primary Concern is Not Tax Increases...

Yes, we all know that it doesn't make sense to raise taxes in a "down" market. And although that is exactly what the Cook County Assessor's Office has done, that's not why I created this page. What I'm trying to do is create awareness about a specific group of people: those who bought a home in 2006, and how they are being treated now in 2008. This relatively small group of people, as I see it, have been slated for homeowner extinction by the Illinois state legislature. And all they did was buy a home in the wrong year.

For those who are new to this issue, please allow me to explain. There exists a very unique relationship between Cook County and the Illinois General Assembly. Since the proposed taxes in Cook County are so high that no one would actually pay them, the county petitions the Illinois state legislature to offer what is called a "homeowner's exemption" in a bill loosely called the "7% Cap". This "exemption" is basically a discount applied to the total balance on your tax bill if you are a Cook County homeowner.

So in my case, Cook County said I should pay $6,090.51 in property taxes last year for a single family home in Cicero. But my homeowner's exemption of $2,061.40 reduced that bill to $4,029.11. However, this year I was asked to pay $6,374.08, and given an exemption of $513.50. Not only does that mean that I have to pay $1,547.90 more just because I lost 75% of my exemption, but I also have to make up the difference of:

$6,374.08 (in 2007, payable in 2008) - $6,090.51 (in 2006, payable in 2007) = $283.57 in actual tax bill increases.

So, $283.57 (increase in taxes) + $1,547.90 (loss of exemption) = $1,831.47 more that I have to pay in taxes this year for 2007 (payable in 2008). But that's not all there is to it.

The Illinois General Assembly did protect most homeowners. They just made sure that this protection didn't include anyone who bought a home in 2006. Arbitrary? Yes. So, while I pay something like $5,800+ in taxes this year, the majority of non-senior homeowners on my block are only expected to pay between $3,500 and $4,200 because they are getting the full $2,061.40 exemption from the state.

So not only does this amount to a special $1,547.90 tax to those who purchased a home in 2006, it's doubly painful because 2006 was probably the worst year in history to have bought a home considering that that was when the market was at its peak. Since then, home values have plummeted. And if you bought a home in 2006, you are now the proud owner of an "underwater" property; where the home is worth far less than the mortgage you owe on it. Here's an interesting link to CNN that explains just how many people are "underwater",

http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/30/real_estate/underwater_borrowers/index.htm?cnn=yes

Which has since become much, much worse. Especially if you live in the country's most crooked county: Cook County, Illinois.

And this is the group of constituents that the Illinois State Legislature selected to pay this special tax? The population whose foreclosures are the very catalyst that has driven the the crisis we're now facing in the real estate and financial markets? We're having a tough time hanging on without any additional obstacles. Something smells "fishy" here, and if I were a gambling man I'd bet that Illinois is actually trying to accelerate foreclosures rather than prevent them. If that's the true intent of our state government, then I'd say they're a riveting success. And this is the only area, right now, in which they're succeeding.

If You Don't Believe There Are Crooks in Illinois....

Here is a link to the original story by Fox News Chicago,

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/Investigation_Reveals_BackDoor_Pay_Raises_for_Cook_Co_Commissioners

Where two Cook County Board Commissioners were taking money from a "contingency" fund, and declaring it as income. According to Cook County Board Commissioner, Larry Suffredin, this is a violation of Illinois state law. And if you look at the following page on his website,

http://www.suffredin.org/news/newsitem.asp?newsitemid=3450

Another Commissioner used the money to pay for her college tuition, while yet another Commissioner used the money to pay a former Chicago Alderman who was convicted of a financial crime. So that breaks down as follows:

2 Cook County Board Commissioners who committed a crime, and
2 more Cook County Board Commissioners who might have committed a crime

And who is investigating this...? No one!!!

(More to come)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Letter to Senator Durbin: Commute My Sentence Instead...

December 2, 2008

To:

Senator Richard Durbin
309 Hart Senate Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Durbin,

I recently read that you’d like to ask the President to commute former Illinois governor George Ryan’s prison sentence. But I’d like to ask that you consider commuting my sentence instead. And although I’ve never been convicted of the illegal sale of government licenses, I did commit the gruesome act of buying a house in Cook County in 2006.

Although I can’t claim that ignorance of the law is any kind of an excuse for not conforming to it, I honestly did not know that I was doing anything illegal back in 2006. Since then, I’ve been sentenced by the Cook County Assessor’s Office to pay an unfair and inequitable tax increase, in addition to a loss of subsidy (homeowner’s exemption) that every other homeowner is getting. The results of which have been financially devastating for me.

And I understand that the two Cook County Commissioners, who are receiving a monthly stipend of $1,200.00 from a “slush” fund and declaring it as income, have to get that money from somewhere. But why should the people who bought a house in 2006 have to pay for it? It seems so arbitrary and random. And what is so bad about buying a house in Cook County in 2006, that it should now be treated as a crime?

I am very sorry for my actions, and I’d like to issue a public apology for buying my home. And if you ask the President to commute my sentence, I promise I’ll never buy another house in Cook County in 2006 ever again. In fact, I’d be willing to testify before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing if it would help sway your decision in any way. Perhaps we could set a date…? My schedule’s pretty much wide open.

Cordially,

David N. Jenkins
Property Index Number: 16-20-208-022-0000