We obtained a statement from the Lake County Township Assessors who filed a suit in Federal Court against Lake County, County Assessor Martin Paulson, County Treasurer David Stolman, and other county officials.
The statement is intended as a "response to comments made by a Lake County representative pertaining to township equalization and the federal lawsuit."
Annual township assessor equalization is not against the law as recently stated by a Lake County representative. In fact, it is encouraged by the Illinois Department of Revenue to establish an equitable and uniform spread of the real estate tax burden within a township and done by the majority of townships in the state without interference from their County Assessor. This was also the case in Lake County until 2016. When the County Assessor decided to prohibit changes, the assessors took their issues with him to the Lake County Board, who appoints the County Assessor, and to the Lake County States Attorney office, submitted supporting documentation for months to help them understand our position and did not file a lawsuit until nearly a year had passed. The Lake County State’s attorney confirmed that township assessors can equalize per the law and when they did and turned their books in to the County assessor he arbitrarily removed all of our work and applied across-the-board factors to all townships. After this was done, a lawsuit was filed in federal court.
The township assessors contend that by reversing all equalization they did, the county assessor is creating an inequitable spread of the real estate tax burden. Based on sales studies done on all areas of their townships, the assessors see that not all areas in a township increase or decrease in value equally from one year to the next and therefore should not be lumped together with an across-the-board factor established without input from the township assessors who actually value the properties. This method of “county assessor only” equalization does not establish uniformity – it has the opposite effect.
Lake County township assessors who equalize assessments annually do have the statutory authority to do so. Per Illinois statutes, the township assessor, county supervisor of assessments and the Illinois Dept. of Revenue may all equalize assessments annually. Illinois property tax law states that all assessments must be reviewed every four years (quadrennial assessment year) by township assessors. However, this is the minimum for which property assessments must be reviewed, not the maximum.
The federal judge who dismissed the lawsuit stated in his opinion “the assessors plaintiffs have not alleged that they are personally injured by any of the defendants’ actions.” The judge furthered stated “thus, if defendants’ actions have harmed anyone, it would be the taxpayers, who might end up paying an increased tax”. The judge also opined that the “taxpayer plaintiffs must bring their claims in state court” (rather than federal court.)
Equity of assessments is a major concern of township assessors because it creates a more fair spread of the real estate tax burden among property owners.
Gary Raupp, Vernon Township Assessor
Jeri Barr, Grant Township Assessor
Becci Tonigan, Cuba Township Assessor
Peggy Freese, Libertyville Township Assessor
John Barrington, Ela Township Assessor