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Chicago eagle. (Chicago, Ill.) 1889-19??, April 14, 1894, Image 1

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"INDEPENDENT IN ALL THINGS. NEUTRAL IN NONE."
VOLUME IX.-
CHICAGO, SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 1894-TWELVE PAGES.
NUMBER 23.
IV j'
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A HOIST II
Hon. Edward F. Cullerton of the State Board
of Equalization Jumps on
Them Very Hard.
Ht Arraigns tha Wholt Systom at II Ex
ists in Plain and Unmeas
ured Tarms.
A Red Hot Article for the Perusal of Our
Taxpayers and Citizens
Generally.
Tho Frooont Xnoqnalitioo and tho Way tho Po-
plo Art Robbod to Obligo
Tax-Dodgtra.
To tho Editor of tho Eaglo:
Huvlng been requested to give my.
views regarding our present system
of tuxattun, Its defects, and to sug
gest remedies for existing Inequali
ties, und In my position as a member
of the State Board of Equalization
for ono of the wealthiest Chicago
district's, feeling It Incumbent upon
j we us a duty to acquire a thorough
knowledge of the subject in the in
terests of the people I represent, I
uiu quite willing to present to the
public tho deductions gained from
my cxpcrlcncs and a study of tho
subject.
How tlic Tj l.nvjr I Jlmle Up.
The General Assembly passes Its
appropriation bill declaring tho
amount required for Stato purposes.
The law prescribes the amount
to bu levied for State purposes. The
County Commissioners pass their ap
propriation bill establishing the
amount required for expenses for the
current year. Tho City Council also
doos llkewlso; so with tho Drainage
Board, Park Boards, und Public Li
brary, etc. But tho law provides that
none of tho boards shall lovy it tax,
except tho General Assembly and
town boards, beyond a certain per
centum upon tho aggregate value of
all property within tuch city, drain
ago district, or village, subject to
taxation therein, as the 'same was
equalized for State and ounty
taxes for the preceding year.
The various appropriation ordinances
are, when passed by the respective
toards, forwarded to the county
court for confirmation; when con
firmed tho county clerk extends the
amount upon tho books. Tho books
are then distributed to the various
town assessors In the county. Tho
uiscssors receive the boiks on the
(list day of May In each year, and
arc compelled to complete their work
of assessment and return tho books
by tho first day of July, giving them
but sixty days to make the assess
ment. Tho law furthor allows twenty
days In which to mako up the books.
In this twenty days Is whoro tho
'lino work" appears; at this po'nt Is
whoro tho assessors forgot what
a fulr and equltablo assessment
means. This Is the poriod in
which tho mlddlomon (and they
wore very numorous in tho West Di
vision last year) get in their "tine
work" with tho tax ofi'clals to earn
their lll-gotton gain. In reducing
tho taxes of tho wealthy to tho detri
ment of tho honest taxpayer, any
amount taken from one piece of
property must of necessity be
spread against other property,
which always falls upon tho
SSKSS1KTS.
property of tho middle and poorer
classes. As an Illustration; take
Uropcrty worth $400,000, and with
the proper argument made to the
middlemen or tax agent or deputy
assessor, It Is generally reduced on
the books to W0, 000 or 940,000; the
$300,000 or $370,000 Is therefore
spread against other property, as a
Itxed amount must be.ratscd to meet
the requirements of the State,
county, city and othor boards.
The books aro finally ebsed; turned
over to the County Clerk, who com
piles tho reports of tho various town
assessors In the county, and makes
his return to tho Stato Auditor, who
In turn reports tho same to tho Stato
Board, when the rates aro finally de
termined by the State Board of
Equalization und tho Governor, Aud
itor,' und State Treasurer, who deter
mine tho rate for tho State purposes;
tho County Clerk then completes the
rutes which aro spread on tho books,
which are to bo delivered to tho vari
ous tqwn collectors for collection on
or before' the 20th day of Decomber
of each ,our, giving tho collector but
eighty days In which to mako tho
collections, said collectors returning
such books to tho County Treasurer
on tho 1 0th day of March following,
the County Treasurer finally com
pleting tho collection of taxes in
November.
Tho expenses attached to such a sys
tem are, appalling. That of the vari
ous town assessors In tho county is
apparently unknown to any but those
having access to tho town books, ns
such expense Is made up and ap
proved by the town board and paid
by tire town treasurer or supervisor,
us tho caso may be, and then added
or extended to tho noxt tax levy.
But If the expenses or the town as
sessors aro to bo determined by tho
amounts paid to the town collectors
within tho city limits for collecting
what they collect of tho taxes, they
are simply enormous, as tho follow
In',' amounts aro retained by tho va
rious town collectors within the city
limits of , tho city as having been paid
for collecting tho taxes of 1893; tho
umounts being In excess of interest
received by them on deposits:
'i'owuof South Clilcauo I91.SM TO
We. t Town vs.ou is
North Town It.wu cc
Hrdo 1'ark w.ii'O m
Lake to.uts si
Lako View SS.N3 l
Jeffewon i.WiM
JICO.M9 1U
There are also parts of the towns
of Culumet, Evunston, and Norwood
Park within the limits of tho city,
but tho amounts retained by them
are not at hand. In this connection
I am but naming tho amounts paid
to Town Collectors within the Chl
HON.
The Member o( the
cago city limits. There arc many
others within tho county, of which I
have not tho amounts paid to them.
In addition to the above tho city
pays to the County Collector annually
about $80,000 for collecting the por
tion of its taxes remaining uncollect
ed by tho town collectors. It seems
to me that no further evidence Is re
quired to convince any person that
town boards should be abolished ln
this city. In this connection you'
can also udd salaries of the County
Treasurer's office, which for 18i:i
were $101,000. With the above
amount paid for collecting the taxes,
It seonis strange that $24, 140.00
should remain uncollected of the
taxes of 1803, and yet this Is true.
A large portion of this uncollected
taxes Is made up of personal prop
erty and Injunction suits. The fail
ure to collect Is explained In this
way: Tho town collectors claim the
time allowed them by law Is so lim
ited that they have not the time, and
tho blame Is laid on tho County Col-
lector, who in turn says ho has often '
complained to the County Attorney ,
und asked that suits be begun against
thoso refusing. Tho attorney says
ho has all he can do to attend to
other duties, and there you are. By
such lux mothods the above sum Is
lust.
Being a member of tho State
Bourd of Equalization, which is com
posed of twenty members, one from
each Congressional district In the
State, sixteon from tho outlying dis
tricts of tho Stato and four from
Cook County, I will say that, consid
ering tho present conditions of the
assessments in Cook County, It fared
better at tho hands of tho members
of tho board last year than for sev-
oral years past.
Regarding the assessment of rail
roads and corporations (the same be
ing partially assessed by local Asses
sors), the country members are con
tinuously watching the returns made
by Cook County Assessors, which re
turns are generally low. The sumo
trouble exists with tho law governing
tho board that does with tho Town
Assessors, which bears almost Any
construction the board muy see tit to
put upon it. II occurs to mo that
tho law governing this bourd should
also bu amonded or tho board abol
ished. Permit me to cite an instanco that
may tond to throw somo light upon
one of tho causes which tend to bring
about tho present railroad property
assessment. During the considera
tion of tho railroad assessments by
tho lust Board, Mr. E. S. Drcycr, of
Chicago, was a visitor at tho Capitol,
and mado tho statomont that tho
railroad properties of Cook County
should bo assessed at $50,000,000,
which statement was widely pub
lished throughout tho country. An
attorney ropresontlng somo railroad
Immediately proceeded to Chlcugo
and investigated tho assessment
placed upon Mr. Dreyer's" rosldonco
property, and, it my memory serves
me right, It was valued at $100,000,
upon which the assessment was lev
ied at, I think, $12,000. I cite but
this instance out or many others.
Such statements greatly tond, as a
rule, to lower suh assessments. In
EDWARD F: CULLERTON,
Board of Equalization Who Is Exposing Inequalities.
this connection it is not my intention
to defend tho action of the Board in
this particular assessment, buttaklng
into consideration assessments levied
en other property and the condition
of the railroads all over the country,
it was considered fair.
As to the law govornlag the assess
ment of corporations, from, my lim
ited experience, I consider it a mere
farce. True, there aro somo corpora
tions in this city and others through
out the Stute which should receive
closer Inspection and pay a larger
percentage than they do towards tho
maintenance of the' government, par
ticularly those using public streets.
But the looseness of the law pertain
ing to the same and the Juggling of
the returns made to tho board were
such as might be criticised. But it
is to bo hoped that the noxt assess
ment will bo a vast Improvement on
the last. At least such will be the
case If my aid will bring it about.
In this connection, permit mo to
cite one Instance that Is not In uc
cord with tho law or practices of us
scsslng, namely, as for Instanco:
Take two vacant pieces of prop
erty. ionn uoe erects tncrcon a
building valued, say, at $500,000;
lllchard Koo owns precisely tho same
amount of land adjoining. Mr. Iloo
being unablo financially to improve
t,,,8 ,)roporty equal to that of his
neighbor, organizes a stock company
with $500,000 capital, and upon his
ground ho erects a similar building.
The assessor assesses both pieces of
realty (or should do so) at the same
value. Why then should tho corpo
ration bo assessed upon its capital
stock? Lot mo put it another way.
Supposo this man should not erect
j tjU9 building by a stock company, but
that he raises sufficient monoy as the
building goes on by mortgages.
(Mortgages arc not assessable.) Thon
in such a case he would be upon the
same footing as his wealthy neigh
bor, but the law says the capital
stock Issued for tha construction of
such a building shall bo assessed.
Thcro are many other similar In
stances regarding corporations that
might bo used in comparison.
It might bo well at this point to
give tho assessments, If such they muy
bo caltcd, mado by tho local assessors
In the various towns In I8l3 and
1802:
I West Towu, h M),W,C'.o
j Weal Town. JSJ.I .... ,:, tin
' South Towu, Mi. ki,I'.:i;h
8utu Town, lot SJ.VJJ.SIO
North 'low u.HJ'.' JiUUVJW
North Town, ii.) 1 17,tw,nn
Tho reason, therefore, of the taxes
being lower this year, to some, is
from tho fa t that tho Stute Board of
Equalization, through the efforts of
your humble servant, with the aid
of his colleagues from Cook County,
succeeded in keeping tho rato to bo
added to tho assessors' returns in
Cook County lowor this year lower
for '03 than for tho preceding year,
namely, to wit: Amounts added to
Cook County personal proporty, towu
and city lots und lands, for tho year
1802 Personal proporty, 25 percent. ;
lands, 24 per cent. ; town and city lots,
23 per cent. For '03 Personal prop
erty, 22 per cent; lauds, 20 per cent.;
town and city lots, 18 per cent
It is thoreforo clearly visible that
whatovcr credit, If any, given in this
case, should go to tho Board of
Equalization, and not to tho local as
sessors. The West Division, as usual, suf
fers the most, because tho local as
sessor increased his assessment more
than did the assessors of the South
and North Towns.
The State Board of Equalization
cannot remove the differences existing
In the assessments of local assessors
or of individuals, as in the case
above referred to. The percentage
is added by counties.
ln one instance property baa been
ussessed one-third, und In another
instance only one-sixth or ono-tenth
of Its value. These differences
will of necessity remain, and it
then becomes possible that three
pieces of property, caoh worth,
say, $3,000, and assessed by three as
sessors at one-third, ono-slxth a ad
one-tenth, pay in one Instance at a
certain rate $00, in another instance
$30, and in the third instance only
$18 taxes.
It must bo taken into considera
tion that tho tax-payers and mem
bers of the State Board outside of
Cook County take great interest In
tho assessment of Cook County
property, as can bo clearly shown by
any person watching tho strugglo be
tween tho city and country mombcrs
of tho Board of Equalization. Es
pecially Is It so at tho time when tho
Board is In session. The Springfield
papers, or somo of thorn tako occa
sion to publish a rehash of tho points
and defects shown by tho Chicago
press of the outrageous manner of
assessments in Chicago. I can see
but ono good result that will come
from such expose of the crookedness
of local assessors, and that is, a
general revision of the revenue law
in the near future. I look for no im
provement In the coming year but ta
the enhancement of assessors and
their henchmon, ns inch advertise
ments will certainly Increase their
revenues in tho lowering of certain
assessments.
NprcUl Autuniinlt.
Tho special assessment systom
should bo amended in many particu
lars. Ono vory cogent reason is to
protect the proporty owner from tho
asphalt combination, which has re
cently becomo so powerful in this
city that It has taken a strong hold
on some of tho Aldermen who pass
ordinances for city Improvements In
discriminately. So strong' Is this
combination that somo two years ago
they secured tho passage of a Inrgo
number of ordinances, and fearing
that when tho property owners wore
apprised of It thoy would demand tho
repeal of tho sumo, an effort was
mado In tho last Legislature to pass
u law prohibiting tho Council
from repealing such ordinances
unless upon a petition of more
than a majority of tho property own
ers. I wroto a few lotters to Spring
field showing up tho scheme, und It
wns abandoned. Under tho present
systom tho first notlco a proporty
ownor has of any strcot Improvement
mado by tho special assessment sys
tem Is when suit Is died in tho Coun
ty Court for tho proposed improve
ment, and this is after the city has
CHIMGOMMfiKE UP!
You ire Groaniog Under a Burden of Un
equal and Wrongful Taxation
Almost Unparalleled.
Unless You Sand Hon to tho Legislature
to Right Things You Will
Bo Worto Off.
An Appaling State of Affairs' Here Set Forth
by the Hon. Edward F.
Cullerton.
Just Road and Ltaxn Bow Tou Aro Syatamat-
ically Robbed,
Impoood
been put to tho expenso of employ
ing engineers and paying clerk hire
and tho useless expense of three com
missioners, who are supposed to go
upon the premises and examine them
as to what proportion is to bo as
sessed and tho amount it should bear.
In many instances, after such ex
pense, the Council annuls such ordi
nance. Commissioner of Public "Works
Jones condemns this practice in tho
following languago: "Tho promiscu
ous ordering of Improvements, evi
dently without tho knowledge
or concurrence of the property
owners, and after staying or annul
ling them, should be stopped at once,
not only In the Interest of those who
would be directly affected, but also
in the interest of public economy. I
would recommend, in the Interest of
a more economical administration of
tho bureau, that tho law bo further
amended so that tho cost of "publica
tion of notice" be reduced from 00 to
80 per cent Each scparato assess
ment now requires the publication of
a mass of legal verbiage which would
bo equally, if not more, efficacious
woro It used but onco, followed
by tho list of Improvements.
At present the above men-
tloned commissioners, who act a part '
in tho machinery of tho special as
sessment law, rccotvo a foo of $2 each
for cucb assessment roll filed In tho
County Court. I would recommend
that tho fco bo reduced to 50 cents,
or, which Is still better, that the law
bo so amended that city employes bo
appointed to act as such commission
ers without additional compensation.
In' conclusion, I renow tho recom
mendation 1 made a year ago, viz:
That it would bo dcslrablo for tho
City Council to Instruct the Commis
sioner of Public Works, Fire Marshal
and Superintendent of Streets to
prepare during tho summer vacation
the list of streets to ho Im
proved during tho ensuing year,
and make report thereof at the first
mcotlng in September. The Com
mittees on Streets and Alleys, t
whom the list is usually referred,
would then havo a sarilolcnt tlmo
whoreln to consult with tho property
owners for II mil action, and tho spo.
clal assessment bureau would thus
bo relieved from tho uccosslty of
making a number of assessments
which for years to como will not bo
carried Into effect, und which conse
quently would havo to bo ropcaled.
There are many other good reasons
why tho Legislature should at Its
next session consider this with othor
matters pertaining to tho abuses of
the present special assessment system.
Among them Is tho outrageous ine
quality of tho assessment mado by tho
Wost Sldo Park Board.
Defect- In tliv Iti'veniio Sjr.trm.
What are tho principal dofocts In
tho operation of tho present revenue
system, about which so much has
been said and printed for years?
To-day wo havo a city covering an
area of 180 to 100 square miles and a
population bordering on 2,000,000
people, and the value of Its property
Ohootod und
Upon.
'or tho year 1303 roported at 9245,-
00,351, and a bonded Indebtedness
of $18,476,450, under a system which
leads to favoritism, and real compe
tition, as has been proved tlmo and
again, is inadequate and Insufficient.
A system which cannot And more
than $245,700,351 of taxablo property
in Chicago, when in fact, at a fair
cash value, It ought to be from $2,
500,000,000 to $3,000,000,000, ought
to givo way for something better.
From my ow'ri" experience- and ob
servation, and as a citizen, and from
my official deliberations, I deduce tho
fpllowlng as the principal defects in
the operation of the present revenue
systom:
Tho gross inequality in tho assess
ment of different pieces of property
of the same kind owned by different
individuals in tho same community,
and of different kinds of property re
gardless of ownership, as, for in
stance, real estate and personalty a
largo proportion of tho pe.sjnalty es
caping all taxes.
Tho low rato of assessments.
The high rato of taxation per
mitted by law.
Tho evils embraced thus far named
aro great and widespread. They fall
under every casual observation and
aro in evoryono's mouth. It Is tho
theory of tho law that tho burdons
of taxation shall rest equully upon
the citizens and taxpayers of tho
commonwealth In proportion to their
property. In conformity to that Just
prlnclplo'most men would cheerfully
pay their sharo of tho expenses of
good government, oven though thoy(
should bo heavy, and nono would
have causo to murmur. But the
practice is widely different from the
theory. Tho reulty of ono man is
assessed at one-third, one-half, two
thirds, or even the full measure of its
actual value, while that of his neigh
bor is assessed at one-sixth, one-
tontn, ono-twentictu, or, as has re
cently been ahown In somo Instancos
of considerable magnitude, one-twenty-fifth
of its actual value. The
owner of ono pays as Ids annual tax
5 or 0 pep cent, of tho actual capital
I Invested, whllo tho ownor of the
other pays ouo-fourth or ouc-tlftli of
1 por cent. Such distinctions aro
too invidious to partlcularl.o, but
thus far thoy havo been, too meekly
borne.
Tho discriminations in favor of
personal proporty and against realty
aro glaring and unjust, amounting in
somo species of tho former class to an
almoit total escape of taxation.
1 will ho ro Instanco ono of tho main
causos which lead to tho hcstillty of
tho members of tho State Board out
side of Cook County against tho man
ner of tho assessments reported by
tho assessors of Cook County. For
tho ycur 1803 tho report of the Board
"shows credits of other than buukcr
or broker In Cook County to bo but
$142,745." For tho samo year tho
valuation of credits othor than thoso
of banker and broker In tho follow
ing countlot stood thus, to wit: Do
Kalb County, $331,000; Kuno County,
$300,000; Ogle County, $284,000; La
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