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Houlihan, Berrios clash at Cook County Board

Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Daily Herald
by Ted Cox

The feud between the Cook County assessor and the Board of Review over when second-installment property-tax bills will be mailed - before or after the Nov. 2 general election - moved to the regular County Board meeting Tuesday.

The board heard from Assessor James Houlihan and Board of Review Commissioners Larry Rogers Jr. and Joseph Berrios. Houlihan has charged that, under the political influence of Berrios, who is also head of the Cook County Democratic Party, the Board of Review is dragging its feet on preparing the tax bills in an attempt to avert a potential tax revolt before the election.

Houlihan is retiring from politics, while Berrios is the Democratic nominee to replace him in the fall general election.

Rogers and Berrios charged that the bills were running late because of flaws in the way Houlihan was doing reassessments to follow Cook's new two-part tax structure calling for homes to be taxed at 10 percent of market value and commercial real estate at 25 percent. Houlihan refuted those charges, calling them "reckless" and "offensive."

Houlihan has said he'll have all assessments done May 7, in ample time for the bills to go out before Nov. 2.

"There's no acceptable reason tax bills should not go out earlier," said Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park.

Rogers and Berrios, however, said they would not deter any taxpayers in appealing their assessments and because of that they could not promise a delivery date, although Rogers said the board "will work as hard as we can to meet those deadlines."

Riverside Republican Commissioner Tony Peraica, an outspoken tax opponent, pledged "whatever resources are necessary ... to get this job done."

The board voted to accept and file correspondence on the matter from both Houlihan and the Board of Review and monitor the situation.

"I don't think this should be buried in some committee," Peraica said.

"Nobody's hiding anything," replied Evanston Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

"I would hope that we would be able to put personalities aside and just resolve this," said Chicago Democratic Commissioner John Daley, head of the finance committee.

The issue figures to come up regularly at County Board meetings throughout the summer.

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