Lake County assessors clash over property value hikes

Cuba Township Assessor Rebecca Tonigan says her work to fairly set property values has been "undermined" by an appointed Lake County official.

Tonigan and other township assessors are questioning why Lake County Chief Assessment Officer Martin Paulson's office kept them out of the most recent property valuation process. The township assessors contend the result without their input was across-the-board percentage increases set by Paulson's office that could lead to higher property taxes.

Paulson said Friday the complaints are unwarranted. He noted property owners have 30 days from the date of publication to file an assessment appeal with the Lake County Board of Review.

"I think that these types of increases in assessed value don't necessarily translate into increases in taxes," Paulson said. "That's a function of what the taxing districts ask from us. I would expect these increases ... shouldn't significantly change tax burdens."

Paulson said he wants a consistent approach in handling assessments, so the process to determine property valuations for 2016 was based on data from the Illinois Department of Revenue and other sources instead of information provided by the township assessors.

As a result, standard percentage increases were attached to properties in Lake County townships. For example, all parcels in the 2016 assessment notice sent to Cuba Township property owners in the Barrington area saw a 6.6 percent increase.

Rebecca Tonigan

However, Tonigan said Paulson's assessment method did not allow her to examine Cuba Township neighborhoods where appropriate in an effort to attach the most accurate value on property.

In the current Cuba Township newsletter to residents, she wrote that Paulson "undermined" her office's research that indicated increases were not justified for most properties. She said Paulson's office also reversed findings for lower property valuations made by township assessors so the blanket increases could be applied.

"I really don't understand what he (Paulson) is up to," Tonigan said Friday.

Libertyville Township Assessor Peggy Freese said a 7 percent across-the-board property value hike for her area doesn't compute.

"The problem with that now is I have neighborhoods that are over-assessed and neighborhoods that are under-assessed," Freese said. "And I have some large commercial properties that are now way over-assessed, because they shouldn't have gotten that 7 percent increase."

Kip Urban

Libertyville resident Kip Urban said he's tiring of annual property valuation boosts and typically corresponding higher taxes. He said he hopes other property owners join him in appealing the increase.

"It's ridiculous," Urban said. "Absolutely ridiculous. Seven percent. It's not fair. The guy took the short way out. It's wrong."

Lake Villa Township property owners have until Monday to seek reductions before the Lake County Board of Review. The appeal deadlines are Aug. 29 for Cuba and Libertyville townships, Sept. 6 for Avon Township, Sept. 14 for Warren Township, Sept. 19 for Vernon Township and Sept. 26 for Ela Township.

Paulson said while the increases were grounded in statistics, the board of review is designed to hear concerns about the assessment process.

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