Ald. Walter Burnett, wife wrongly called for tax exemptions for owners of 2 Chicago homes for 7 years

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and his wife Darlena Williams-Burnett have been calling for two property tax exemptions for homeowners for years, one more than Illinois law allows, according to records.

Taking advantage of the additional tax break – which the law limits to a house that people own and occupy as their primary place of residence – has saved them $ 2,866 over the past four years. It is not known how much more they have saved since 2013.

Available public documents show the longtime Near West Side alderman and his wife, who have long bought and sold properties on the West Side, have claimed the double tax exemption for the past eight years on a house in the 1600 block of West Warren Boulevard, where they live and on an investment property they own in the 4800 block of West Crystal Street.

Burnett, 57, says he was unaware of the additional exemption, for Crystal Street property, until a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times told him about it.

“If we did it, we didn’t know we did it,” Burnett says. “We have to verify this. If so, we will refund it.

Taxes for the investment property are paid by their mortgage company, according to Burnett.

The alderman has disclosed his ownership of the red brick bungalow on Crystal Street since at least 2014 on financial disclosure forms required by the city, describing it as investment property.

He and his wife, a former Cook County commissioner who is now deputy park chief of facilities for the Chicago Housing Authority, are registered to vote in the two-story brick townhouse on Warren Boulevard.

The owner’s exemption for Crystal Street has been in the name of Williams-Burnett since at least 2013. The tax bill and exemption on Warren Boulevard is in the name of the alderman. Both tax bills go to Warren Boulevard, one to Walter Burnett, the other to Darlena Burnett.

Burnett says his wife “could not recall applying for a landlord exemption” for the Crystal Street property.

Less than a day after being asked about the double exemptions, Burnett wrote a check for $ 3,217, which includes $ 351 in interest on unpaid taxes, according to Angelina Romero, spokesperson for the County Assessor. Cook, Fritz Kaegi.

His payment covered taxes owed on the Crystal Street house for four tax years – 2016 to 2019 – according to Romero, clearing his account with the county because the appraiser’s office can only go back four years to collect taxes. Wrong tax breaks.

And that means the extra exemption on the house from 2013 to 2015 saved the alderman and his wife, 60, extra money, though Romero can’t say how much. His office was also unable to locate the original request.

Ald. Walter Burnett’s house in West Town – the one where he and his wife live and on which they rightly claim a property tax exemption.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

The investment property on which Ald.  Walter Burnett and his wife Darlena Williams-Burnett also had a homeowner's exemption even though they did not live there.

The investment property on which Ald. Walter Burnett and his wife Darlena Williams-Burnett also had a homeowner’s exemption even though they did not live there.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

According to Romero, Kaegi’s erroneous exemptions department – 10 staff members whose job it is to flush out such irregularities – had already flagged the Burnetts’ double exemptions for review and they were to “be investigated within months. following ”.

Romero says the exemption on the Crystal Street home may have been overruled by the previous owner when the home was sold in 2012, when the appraiser’s office was in the hands of Joseph Berrios.

Homeowner exemptions and other property tax benefits appear on the second installment of tax bills, which this year are expected to be mailed out later this month along with payments due Oct. 1.

New owners are expected to apply for the homeowner exemption for the first year they own the house, certifying that they live in the house and that it is their primary residence. The advantage is then renewed automatically.

Married since 1991, the Burnett’s bought their home on Warren Boulevard, near Union Park, in 1994, a year before Burnett took office.

Records show the couple paid $ 71,000. Over the years, they’ve taken out more mortgages on the Warren Boulevard home, in their two names, most recently for $ 386,000 in 2016.

From 2001 to 2010, they had the house in trust, but the tax bills still went to Walter Burnett, according to records.

The property appears to have benefited from an owner exemption since that time, although the name of the beneficiary between 1995 and 2000 is not available in records obtained from the appraiser’s office.

The couple bought the 1,040 square foot home on Crystal Street in October 2012, agreeing to buy it for $ 55,000, taking out a mortgage for $ 43,000.

In 2016 and 2018, Williams-Burnett filed tax appeals and lowered the assessed value every time.

“My wife’s family lives on this block,” says Burnett. “We saved this building so that family members could stay there. “

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