Packed room as reassessment of properties discussed

Editor's note: A version of this story that appeared in this week’s Ford County Record accidentally attributed remarks made by Piper City Mayor Jeff Orr to former mayor Richard Chandler, who died in November. The Record sincerely apologizes for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

PAXTON — It was standing room only as the Ford County Board met in special session Monday night and some 50 residents were packed into the meeting room to object to the reassessment of their properties. Most hailed from the northern towns of the county.

The public portion of the meeting went on for more than two hours as Supervisor of Assessments Patricia Langland reviewed the process used for the reassessments, board member Randy Ferguson of Gibson City badgered her with questions about the aged computer system Langland would like to replace, and members of the audience interrupted at will.

Langland said she and the multi-township assessors reassessed property in the eight towns in the northern part of the county because it had not been done for so long.

“Over the past several decades, there have not been uniform assessments. Nothing has been updated,” said Marcia Peznowski, the assessor for districts 2 and 3, which cover six townships. “It’s the law. We have to bring these properties in line.”

State law mandates properties be reassessed every four years. Board member Tim Nuss of Roberts said a resident in Elliott will see a 137 percent increase in the assessment of his 30-year-old “double-wide” trailer in Elliott. State law also stipulates now that modular homes be assessed the same as regular houses.

“This is another nail in the coffin of these small towns,” Nuss said.

Peznowski emphasized that the assessors “did not compare the small towns (up north) to Paxton and Gibson City.”  Those two are much larger, have functioning downtowns and many amenities, she said.

Piper City Mayor Jeff Orr said his town’s residents have told him that they could never sell their homes at the prices the new assessments say they are worth.

“Are we assessing on fair market value?” Orr asked.

Orr said in recent years people have “been fleeing the Chicago suburbs, purchasing homes and fixing them up.” Orr said the reassessments “will make the market worse.”

Some 50 residents have filed appeals with Langland’s office and will be able to appeal to the three-member board of review to protest their new assessments. That needs to be done in February, and board of review member Ron Bork of Piper City said that it will be difficult to fit in so that Langland can close out her books by March 1, per state deadline.

Bork appeared to disagree with the assessors’ process. Bork said not enough account was taken of homes’ conditions and amenities. Bork countered Langland’s assertions that there were not sufficient home sales in the towns to use comparative value. Thirty-one “arms-length” sales took place in 2016, though 49 sales were not deemed that because they were between family members and maybe by auction.

“Assessments aren’t based on what a property sells for,” said Langland. “Mass appraisal (assessment) is different. Sales chasing went on in this county for years. That is illegal.”

Board member Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton agreed, saying he has purchased many properties over the years and as soon as the sale was completed, the sales price became the assessment value. Bork disagreed.

Greg Huber, who buys properties and fixes them up and rents them out, said “an $80,000 (home) in Roberts is a far stretch.”

“People won’t be able to pay their taxes, and I’ll have to raise rents,” Huber said.

Other residents objected to increases in assessments that ranged from 10 to 300 percent

Langland said that when reassessing properties last fall, 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.”

Langland said that up to now, owners of similar homes paid disparate rates, some paying $2 a square foot and others $30.

Following the public portion of the meeting, the board adjourned to executive session to discuss personnel.

“No action was taken, and the next scheduled meeting is the monthly meeting on Feb. 12,” State’s Attorney Andrew Killian said after Monday’s meeting.

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JosephJennings123 wrote on February 13, 2018 at 3:02 am

langland said that when reassessing propertiesfood near me open now last fall, she and the assessors came up with nine categories of houses based on condition, style and age.