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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

County Assessor Agrees To Meet With Pilsen Residents After Protests Over Soaring Property Tax Increases

One Pilsen homeowner said she's used to getting a $3,500 property tax bill for the three-flat that has been in her family for decades. This year, her bill soared to $11,500, she said.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi;
Provided; Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — The Cook County Assessor will attend a community meeting in Pilsen next week after neighbors upset by property tax increases rallied outside his office Thursday morning.

A crowd of about 30 people gathered Downtown at Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office to speak out after Pilsen residents were hit hard with property tax increases this year.

Homeowners in rapidly gentrifying, working-class neighborhoods like Pilsen, Avondale and Rogers Park are shouldering much of the burden in recent property taxes, according to an analysis by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office.

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Mary Gonzalez, a prominent Pilsen activist, said residents had two main demands: for Kaegi to attend a meeting in Pilsen in the next 10 days and for his office to correct the “crooked” process that strapped neighbors with exorbitant property taxes in the first place.

“Pilsen has long been considered a prime target by developers — [Kaegi] has to respond to the people of Pilsen,” she said.

Kaegi agreed to meet in Pilsen next week to listen to concerns, said Scott Smith, his chief of staff.

Smith said the assessor’s office is only one part of government that plays a role in determining property taxes. Others, like the Cook County Board of Review, affect it, as well, he said.

Leaders from both offices have pointed fingers at the other about who is most to blame for the high bills, the Tribune’s A.D. Quig reported in November.

“We have had a broken system for a very long time, and unfortunately fixing it is not only going to take time, but it is going to take residents and our office working together,” Smith said.

Credit: Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago
Scott Smith speaking in front of Pilsen residents Jan. 12, 2023 outside the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

Pilsen resident Pat Gonzalez said she’s happy with Kaegi’s commitment after Thursday’s rally but is still concerned about how she’s going to pay the property taxes for the three-flat that’s been in her family for decades.

Gonzalez’s grandmother bought the building in 1954, she said. She said the property taxes have normally been around $3,500, but this year they soared to $11,500.

“I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m scared,” she said. “Should I get another job so I can just pay taxes? And, of course, the first thing I thought was, ‘Why didn’t the tax bill go out Nov. 1?’ Because it would’ve been right in time enough to be upset and not vote Kaegi in.”

Kaegi won a close Democratic primary for the assessor’s seat in the spring before easily winning the general election in November.

Nas Bader, whose parents settled in Pilsen during the ’70s, said his family owns a few buildings in Pilsen. A three-unit building they own was assessed at a value of $1.2 million, which made the taxes increase from $7,000 to $20,000, he said.

“This is not democratic; this is not the way of the people,” he said. “We’ve tried appealing it, but the Assessor’s Office is not following through on appeals like they should be.”

Bader said his family plans to absorb the cost so they don’t have to raise rents for tenants, but not all landlords have the ability to that, which means the cost will be passed onto neighbors and potentially further displace people.

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