This past spring, the Cook County Commissioners passed an amendment to the Incentive Ordinance which requires additional disclosure of information and filing of annual affidavits. Further, the Incentive Ordinance modified how the living wage is applied to properties.
Myself, along with prominent local mayors, economic development municipal leaders and developers have formed a task force to advise Cook County on amendments to the current Cook County Tax incentive ordinances to advise the Board members on potential changes to the ordinance. After months of internal review and debate between the Cook County Assessor, the County Bureau of Economic Development and other county agencies, the assessor finally issued the required affidavits in September of 2017.
New affidavit requirements: An annual filing requirement for all incentive properties
Previously, current incentive properties were only required to file an incentives affidavit with the Cook County Assessor every three years during the property’s reassessment. This incentive affidavit was meant to confirm that the site’s use is an ongoing industrial use, that the property was over 50 percent occupied and updating the necessary contact information. With the issuance of the new incentive affidavit, this filing must now occur on an annual basis.
Beyond this industrial use affidavit, taxpayers must now annually file incentive affidavits confirming that they are in compliance with the Cook County living wage and the Cook County minimum wage and sick day ordinances. Tenants occupying the space must also provide an incentive affidavit annually confirming that they are in compliance with the Cook County minimum wage ordinance.
Finally, new incentive applications must complete an incentive affidavit stating that they are in compliance with all federal and state labor laws. Further, the incentive affidavit requires that the taxpayer confirm that they have complied with such laws for the past five years. This incentive affidavit is only required to be filed one time, and not on an annual basis.
Changes to the living wage
Beyond the creation of these new incentive affidavits, the assessor has provided clarity on the living wage applicability to properties. Starting July 1, 2020, all new incentive occupants, even if they are occupying a property that is leased to them by a non-related entity, must certify that they are paying their employees in compliance with the living wage. Incentives that are already in place are exempt from this requirement.
Keeping the above requirements in mind, it is strongly recommend any leases relating to incentive properties contain language requiring tenants to comply with current and future incentive requirements and to cooperate with Landlords in providing information and documentation to the county, and otherwise comply with incentive requirements, to ensure the incentive is implemented and continues in place.
With the new incentive affidavits being issued, we are now able to complete incentive filings and ensure that the incentives secured for properties in Cook County are able to continue in place unabated. Further, these additional requirements, while somewhat repetitive of the municipal trustee’s determination of the necessity of the incentives, will confirm municipal decisions and aid taxpayers in managing their investments in Cook County.
Brian P. Liston, M.B.A., J.D. is president of Liston & Tsantilis in Chicago where he specializes in the area of eminent domain and property tax litigation. He has successfully tried numerous jury and bench property tax appeal hearings throughout the State of Illinois brining successful resolutions to his clients. Liston has been on the team of 26 National Association for Industrial and Office Properties awards given for his legal work on incentives and land use projects throughout the Midwest. Recently his law firm was ranked #1 by the Leading Lawyers Network in the State of Illinois by his colleagues in the legal field for land use for the fifth year in a row.