Cook County assessor to inspect Horcher farm in Wheeling
The Cook County assessor's office said Wednesday it's planning to inspect the property that's at the heart of a recall effort against Wheeling Village President Pat Horcher to determine if he and his family are paying their fair share of taxes.
A field inspection of an 8-acre portion of the sprawling Horcher family farm south of McHenry and Wieland roads will be done in a timely manner, according to Tom Shaer, a spokesman for the assessor's office. If any changes are made to the property's farm classification, they would go into effect next year, he said.
Horcher has denied any improprieties, saying instead his family actually might have paid more in taxes than necessary by declaring more acreage than allowed as non-farmland.
Horcher, his brothers and their father operate several businesses on the property, including a farm and vegetable stand, greenhouse and flower shop, truck parking and towing, and landscaping services. Residents leading the recall campaign, which they launched late last week, suggest more of the land should be assessed at its full fair market value since a portion isn't used for farming purposes.
Shaer said the Horchers cannot conduct non-farm business on property that is also classified as "farm" on affidavits they submit annually to the assessor's office. Those forms allow acreage used for farming to be assessed at 10 percent of market value, whereas commercial property is assessed at 25 percent.
"It appears there could be possible non-farm use on a comparatively small area of this land," Shaer said, adding that the in-person inspection was prompted by a review and measurement of aerial photographs of the property.
Recent photos show various structures and vehicles present, he said.
There are two parcels Horcher's dad, Michael, hasn't included on farmland affidavits that includes a cell tower and house.
The assessor's office began a review of the Horcher property after the family was charged with a $203,462 tax bill this summer for one 26-acre parcel classified as farmland. That second-installment tax bill contrasts with $384.85 the family paid for the first installment.
Shaer said the parcel was incorrectly removed by the assessor's office from a farmland classification but will be correctly listed going forward.
The recall effort is being led by David Kolssak, a local business owner and one-time candidate for village president. Horcher asked Kolssak to resign this month from the board of directors at the Chicago Executive Airport. The Kolssak family's Wheeling funeral home also employs Dean Argiris, the former village president who lost a re-election bid last year to Horcher.
For the recall question to appear on the April ballot, Kolssak's group must collect 744 signatures of registered Wheeling voters.
If a majority vote yes, a village trustee would be appointed acting village president by vote of the entire board.
• Daily Herald correspondent Chacour Koop contributed to this report.