I try to be an optimistic person but as a small business owner in Oak Park, I have a lot to be fearful of right now. The combination of COVID-19’s effect on the economy, coupled with the uncertainty of Assessor [Fritz] Kaegi’s new property tax assessments makes me scared for the future of my business.
Property taxes for commercial and industrial buildings are already high here, and I am worried they will become unsustainable with Assessor Kaegi shifting the burden on commercial and industrial owners. We pay 250 percent more than residential properties and I have stretched every dollar to keep my doors open.
I know this reality was the case for many small businesses in Cook County even before coronavirus’ impact on our economy — now it is even worse. While the trajectory of coronavirus will remain uncertain for some time, property tax assessments can and should become more predictable.
When I moved my business, Edible Arrangements, to Oak Park, I took a chance on Cook County and thought I was moving to a good location. I did not know what I was getting myself into in terms of property taxes and felt like I got a master’s degree in tax law just from trying to appeal. The assessment methods and appeals process are not
transparent and finding legal representation to correct these mistakes is time and money I don’t have.
While I have personally not seen any mercy from the assessor’s appeals process yet, the Board of Review appears to be consistently reducing these excessive assessments, which indicates to me that his formula for assessments is not as accurate as he claims.
If assessor Kaegi does to Oak Park what he did to small businesses in Evanston, my business is done. People are hurting right now and our economy is suffering. Now is not the time to put more burden on small businesses. Now is not the time to create more uncertainty.
We all need to do our part to help small businesses stay afloat. I know this is a grave concern for governments at every level, but change begins at the local level and I call on assessor Kaegi to create more predictability in these uncertain times.