Palatine family owed $300K refund after Kaegi admits to Cook County property tax assessment error

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Family owed $300K property tax refund after Cook Co. assessor error
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi admitted he made a mistake in a property tax assessment, but not before a Palatine family lost their family business.

Illinois (WLS) -- After receiving a sky-high and incorrect property tax assessment, a suburban family said they were nearly bankrupted by paying their taxes, lost their third-generation business and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Cook County Assessor reversed his decision, admitting that the family is owed a refund almost $300,000 in overpaid taxes.

But the family is having trouble getting that money back.

"It's very sad," said an emotional Kenneth Kinsch, former owner of Palatine's Kinsch Village Florist and Greenhouse. "We were a part of the community of Palatine for 80 years. We were the flower growers."

The I-Team first told you the heartbreaking story in September 2021. The Kinsch family forced to sell their business, they opened in 1938. An overassessment left them over-taxed.

READ MORE: Skyrocketing Cook County property tax bill sends Palatine garden center out of business

Here's what happened: The third generation of the Kinsch Village Florist and Greenhouse in Palatine was first saddled with a 2019 property tax bill that went from $25,000 to $183,000, an increase of 640%. Then in 2020, they got another increased bill for $151,000.

The increases were due to the Cook County Assessor inaccurately changing their land from the category "farm" to "commercial."

With the taxes too high to afford, family members said they were forced to demolish the business and sell the land. They initially appealed with the Cook County Assessor and Board of Review, and lost.

"When you did your original story, it was actually very helpful because the Assessor's Office did reach out to our attorney and said 'oh, we made a mistake,'" said Linda Gilchrist, another member of the Kinsch family.

Assessor Fritz Kaegi now admits to a mistake totaling almost $300, 000 but the family hasn't received the money. That's because the nearly $300,000 the family overpaid in taxes has already been spent by the local taxing bodies; most of it went to two local school districts and the library.

The family asked them for a refund but the attorneys representing the library and school districts offered the Kinsch family only $90,000. That's still a loss of more than $200,000. The family filed a case with the state's Property Tax Appeal Board to try to recover the money.

"They're not willing to settle," said Gilchrist. "And so they're just pretty much hoping that we'll go away or take a small amount instead of the refund that we're due. And we'll just go away and accept what they say."

The I-Team contacted the library and school districts' attorneys. The school district told us "no comment." Attorneys for the library said the family should get their money back after that state's appeals process, but that could take years because state hearings are five years behind schedule.

Kaegi's office said the family has another option: They can drop the case with the state, because last week the assessor sent that Certificate of Error to the county's Board of Review. The Board could reconsider, but a judge would have to approve its new decision.

Whichever way the family decides to proceed, it's a gamble.

"It's taken everything away from us," said Michael Kinsch, another former owner of the Kinsch Village Florist and Greenhouse. "We've lost our family business. We've lost the generational business that would have continued on and it's no longer."

Even if the family gets their money returned, they said they've already lost, all because of that assessment error. We will keep you updated the family's efforts to recover that money.

The Cook County Assessor's Office added, "While other offices have the final say, the Assessor's Office is doing all it can to ensure these property owners receive an assessment reduction and corresponding tax refund. The Office will continue to support them as they pursue their available options."