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Tap the brakes on the new property assessment model (letter to the editor)
TOM CUCULICH Executive director, Chicagoland Associated General Contractors

Friday, October 18, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Across the board, indicators show Chicago's commercial economy is trending sharply downward. Investment is frozen, leaving construction projects unfinanced and prospective jobs off the market. It's all preventable, and yet nearly nobody is talking about it.

That's why we were grateful for Greg Hinz's Sept. 13 column where he correctly cited Cook County's new property tax assessment method as a cause for concern among this broader trend of disinvestment in Chicago ("A warning sign City Hall should heed"). The skyrocketing costs to commercial properties are driving uncertainty and restraint among investors and could very well force existing taxpaying businesses out. The current impact is somewhat obscured from the average taxpayer, but we're on the cusp of a very sudden and public shock.

Per the county's public records, commercial properties in Evanston have already experienced a 125 percent assessment increase and, by some estimates, a 90 percent tax increase. Chicago is on deck, and in two years, these hikes will occur essentially overnight, leaving taxpaying and job-creating businesses no time to acclimate to the severe negative impact. Development projects will dry up and, with them, construction jobs; our one association alone represents over 10,000 employees and $12 billion in economic activity.

For the well-being of the industry and the general health of Chicago's job market, it is essential that the county hits pause on the rapid implementation of the new assessment model. We instead recommend a multiyear, phased-in approach, taking into account strategic consideration of the expected economic impacts.

Doing so is necessary to anchor Chicago's status as an economic engine. It sends the right signal to prospective investors, which in turn keeps construction workers building, consumer costs more affordable and the region growing. But without modification to the assessment model, the city's commercial economy will find itself in a hole from which it will not soon emerge.

Executive director, Chicagoland Associated General Contractors

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