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 $19 million in erroneous exemption money and returned those funds to taxpayers. In fact, more than $28M has been billed since a law conceived by Berrios allowed the CCAO to pursue such funds. As Assessor, he 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-Green. 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 and reduced wait times for taxpayer service. He has also made the Assessor’s Office website easier to use while at the same time adding much new and revised material, making it among the most thorough of any such sites in the United States.
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.
He also knows how to lead a political party which serves all the people, as he is in his ninth year as Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. In the past four election cycles of Joseph Berrios’ Chairmanship, the Cook County Democratic Party (CCDP) has slated 64% more minorities as candidates for countywide office than in the final four cycles of the previous chairman. It has also slated more than twice as many women for countywide office during the past four election cycles vs. the final four cycles of the previous chairman.
Assessor Berrios lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side, in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. He is the father of three and has three grandchildren.