Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios
Born and raised in Chicago, Joseph Berrios understands the responsibilities of true
public service and the importance of ensuring that no one pays more than his or her
fair share of taxes.
Berrios was elected Cook County Assessor in 2010 and entered office that
December after 22 years on the Cook County Board of Review, which handles
property tax appeals. His experience on the Board helped him to immediately
begin an extensive evaluation of the Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO) and
accomplish significant reform. Berrios was reelected in 2014.
Under his leadership, school districts, cities, towns and villages have saved tens of
millions of dollars in borrowing because they’ve received property tax revenue on
time. That is the result of tax bills going out on schedule in every one of Assessor
Berrios’ six years on the job. Tax bills were late in the previous 34 years until he
arrived and ordered his staff to reduce the property assessment cycle by creating
new systems and greatly improving efficiency.
Beginning with the Berrios administration, CCAO has also collected nearly $20.6
million in erroneous exemption money and returned those funds to taxpayers - and the savings continue because erroneous exemptions remain eliminated from future years. In
fact, more than $38M has been billed since a law conceived by Berrios allowed the
Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO) to pursue such funds. It was he who identified the need for legislation and spearheaded a bipartisan effort in Springfield to pass and sign it into law.
All investigations and collections are at no cost to taxpayers.
The story of Joseph Berrios is a story of Chicago and Cook County. It is a story of
hard work, education, pioneering, receiving kindness and giving back in 47 years
of public service. Born on Valentine’s Day 1952, Berrios grew up as one of seven
children. At age six, his family moved to a public housing high-rise at Cabrini-
To help support his family, young Joseph worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant,
eventually becoming a waiter. He graduated from Lane Tech High School and
earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois. Along
the way, numerous professionals encouraged the earnest and ambitious young man.
Public service was next.
In 1982, in his first campaign, Berrios was elected State Representative; he was the
first Hispanic-American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly. The Board of
Review followed, and the important variety of professional experiences developed
Berrios’ deep understanding of the importance of property tax fairness to each
home and commercial property owner throughout Cook County.
Assessor Berrios streamlined the appeal process and made it more open, dramatically increased the number of community outreach appeal and exemption seminars from 75 to more than 145 and reduced wait times for taxpayer service. He has made the Assessor’s Office website easier to use and added much new and revised material, making it among the most thorough of such sites in the United States.
Since the election of Assessor Berrios, the backlog of Certificate of Error applications has been cut from 10,000 six years ago to an average of only 350 on any given day – a low number by industry standards, considering there are 1.8 million pieces of property in Cook County. The State Equalizer has been lowered significantly, which indicates fair property assessment. Finally, the Illinois Department of Revenue Ratio Study shows Cook County assessments better reflect true property value.
These major improvements, together with tremendous community assistance from
on-time tax bills and recovered erroneous exemptions money, constitutes a great
body of work. It has all been accomplished with 25% fewer employees—an
example of lean, efficient, good government.
Assessor Berrios lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side, in the Belmont Cragin
neighborhood. He is the father of three and has three grandchildren.