Unhappy taxpayers question property re-assessments

PAXTON — Two Roberts residents told the Ford County Board on Monday night that the board should expect to be fielding some complaints from unhappy taxpayers in the northern part of the county.

Supervisor of Assessments Patricia Langland told the board that she and the local assessors recently re-assessed properties in the eight towns in the northern part of the county because it had not been done for so long.

Roberts resident Larry David came to the meeting armed with two folders of photos and information on properties which had been assessed “radically” higher than previously and also of properties whose new assessments were lower.

“I can’t figure out the criteria,” David said. “Corner lot, new garage — nothing seems to matter. We’re the No. 1 state of people moving out. People can’t afford to live here.”

Meanwhile, Dale Bleich told the board his son bought “a little dinky house” three years ago in Melvin for $12,000. It was recently assessed for $31,000.

“That’s a 322 percent increase,” Bleich said. “A bank would never appraise it for that. In a few years he’ll spend more in taxes than what he paid for the house. People don’t think it’s fair.”

Langland explained that she and the assessors came up with nine categories of houses based on condition, style and age.

“We physically looked at each house,” Langland said. “We came up with a cost per square foot (based on current assessments) based on total square footage. We ranked them high to low and then took the median value of all houses in that category.”

“Assessments aren’t based on what a property sells for,” added Langland. “Mass appraisal (assessment) is not the same as individual assessment.”

When Board Chairman Randy Berger of Gibson City reminded David that the board has no say in assessments, David acknowledged that residents know they must appeal their assessments through the county’s board of review. The new assessments were published last month. Langland said residents usually have 30 days to appeal their assessments, but this time they have been given more time. The board of review will meet in February with individual taxpayers who have filed an appeal.

David told the board: “I’m not alone, and I won’t let this die.”

Other business
Also at Monday’s meeting:

➜ The board approved making Public Defender Harvey Welch’s position full time. His had been a part-time position. The state will pay two-thirds of Welch’s salary provided it is set at 90 percent of the state’s attorney salary, which is $128,900. The board agreed to do that.

➜ The board approved the filling of two deputy coroner positions. Newly appointed Coroner Rick Flessner said the deputy coroners will be on-call for weekends and would be paid $100 per weekend.

➜ The board approved policies prohibiting sexual harassment, outlining identity protection and performing background checks and setting out mileage reimbursement according to state rules.

➜ The board appointed Lori Blanchard of Melvin to the Ford County 911 Emergency Telephone System Board.

➜ The board agreed to buy an additional vehicle for the probation department. The county will purchase a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu from Bradbury Auto Sales in Gibson City for $14,796. But making 60 payments of $307 will add $4,000 to the cost. Finance Committee Chairman Chase McCall of Gibson City said the county would proceed with the payment route until this fiscal year’s expenses become clearer and he can determine if it makes sense to pay off the loan. The county is operating under a deficit budget.

➜ County Highway Engineer Greg Perkinson updated the board on the progress of negotiations with EDF Renewable Energy on fulfilling the terms of a road-use agreement for the Kelly Creek Wind Farm in Rogers Township. The county and townships are not satisfied that EDF has dealt with inadequate road and ditch sloping. Perkinson said the next step is for EDF to hire an engineer to analyze the problem with the hope that work could be done in the spring.


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