Cook County property tax bill sends Palatine Kinsch Florist and Garden Center to bankruptcy, family says

PALATINE, Ill. (WLS) — A third-generation family business is now vacant after a change in how it’s assessed for property taxes they say has bankrupted them.

“We were meant to be here forever, I thought,” said Ken Kinsch, former owner of the Kinsch Florist and Garden Center.

The rubble is what remains of the suburban greenhouse and flower farm after more than 80 years of operation.

“We had four greenhouses; they were 36 out of 100. We were growing carnations and chrysanthemums,” Kinsch said.

The business was opened in Palatine in 1938 by brothers Ed and Leo Kinsch. The current generation of owners, including Kinsch, can now only look around in disbelief.

“It’s very sad. It’s always what was meant to be in my family what your family is and we loved doing it. You know, I love people, my dad loved doing it with my family. And that was a family tradition,” he said. noted. “We were the flower makers.”

They cultivated these flowers until recently. Their 2019 Cook County property tax bill skyrocketed to $183,000 from just under $25,000; an increase of 640%. In 2020, they received another bill for $151,000.

After these large bills, the family decided to stop and close, hoping that if this land could be considered vacant, it would eventually reduce tax bills. Now five acres of land are empty with overgrown weeds.
If they are classified as vacant, future tax bills could go down. But what about these current bills? The increase was due to the Cook County Assessor changing all land from “farm” to “commercial”. Previously, only their small retail store was designated as “commercial”.

“For over 50 years, the flower shop has always been commercial and the greenhouses have always been agricultural. You know, what has changed?” Kinsch wondered. “And no, no, this is all commercial. What changed? Why did it change? And no one would tell us.”

This 2019 Kinsch reassessment was Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s first year of assessments. And the Kinsch family was not alone; according to the Cook County Board of Review, all business values ​​increased by 98% after the 2019 assessment in the northern townships. Many companies have appealed to the board and won. On average, these ratings then went from a 98% increase to a 35% increase.

“They put their blood and sweat and tears here. And literally in 365 days the county reassessed everything and put us out of business, it just wasn’t possible to be here anymore,” Michael said. Kinsch, a family member.

The assessor’s office did not explain why the designation of the lands had been changed, saying only that “land assessed as farmland pays two and a half times less in property taxes than commercial properties.”

The Kinsch family is appealing to the Cook County Review Board and the state, but even if they end up winning, they say they have already lost because they would still have to pay the money owed in the course of a slow appeal process. “It was way too late for business, there’s just no way to sustain it. We’ve been scratching and fighting to keep paying the property taxes due right now,” Michael Kinsch said.

The Assessor’s Office added: “In 2019, the appeal filed for this commercial property did not provide sufficient documentation to support its assessment as agricultural land. Therefore, it was assessed at a higher rate. raised.”

Family members say they believe they provided the correct documents and will continue to appeal.

“We find this very unfair,” Kinsch said.

Kinsch’s little flower shop, which used to be here, however, survived, moving to a shopping street down the street.

“We were the flower people,” Kinsch said. “I love it. And it’s sad that now it’s not there anymore. It’s not there anymore. But time passes and things change.”

The I-Team also found two other garden centers on the northwest side with almost the same square footage as the Kinsch Flower Farm that were not categorized as “commercial” and had much lower taxes.

When asked why they were different, the appraiser’s office said these properties were appraised based on the documentation provided.

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Penny D. Jackson