Yingling wants voters to elect Lake County assessment chief
A bipartisan group of Lake County legislators led by Grayslake Democratic state Rep. Sam Yingling want to make the county's chief assessment officer an elected position.
But first they'll need voter support.
Currently, the position is appointed by the county board chairman and approved by the county board. But Yingling plans to introduce legislation this week that would let voters decide if the post should be filled via an election in the future.
"We have a dysfunctional property tax system that lacks transparency and accountability," Yingling said. "The problem with this system is that the chief county assessment officer has the ability to unilaterally increase assessments and drive up taxes and that's too much power for a position that is not popularly elected."
Several township assessors in Lake County have long feuded with the current appointee, Marty Paulson, complaining he ignores their reassessments and instead places a blanket increase on properties throughout a township that doesn't fairly distribute the tax burden. Paulson's office and the county have been sued twice by township assessors in recent years, both cases have been dismissed, township officials said.
Paulson is out of the office until Wednesday and couldn't be reached for comment.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said the legislative action is unnecessary and focused on the wrong office.
"I would actually argue the opposite of what Yingling has stated," Lawlor said. "You'd get better equity and accuracy in the numbers from the township assessors if they were appointed too. By being an elected position, it adds a political bend to a process that doesn't need it."
Barrington Hills Republican state Rep. David McSweeney supports Yingling's bill in theory because he believes it will eventually lead to the elimination of township assessors.
"If it is written like I was told it will be, I think it's the first step in getting rid of an unnecessary and archaic assessment system," he said.
Yingling is seeking the change through legislative means because he said the county board has no way of putting the issue on the ballot, and a voter-driven referendum is possible but would take thousands of signatures and hundreds of hours of manpower to pursue. He has also championed government consolidation and said having voters elect this post won't add another level of government because the position already exists.
If Yingling is successful in getting the bill passed, the measure would be on the Nov. 6 ballot.