Complaints over property reassessments continue

PAXTON — With an even larger crowd on hand than there was at last month’s special Ford County Board meeting, residents and others addressed the board Monday night with complaints about the recent reassessment of properties in the northern portion of the county.

Board Chairman Randy Berger of Gibson City scrupulously held speakers to three minutes each.

Increases in assessments ranged from 10 to 300 percent. According to a written report by Supervisor of Assessments Patricia Langland, 103 residents filed appeals of their new assessments. They will appear before the Ford County Board of Review.

The chairman of the board of review, Ron Bork of rural Piper City, said his board will meet in public session at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, in the small courtroom in the courthouse in Paxton to line out the appeals process for the taxpayers.

Bork said he and State’s Attorney Andrew Killian met in Springfield recently with representatives of the Illinois Department of Revenue to discuss legalities of the process. Bork said he had spoken with other attorneys, as well.

Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs told the county board that his group will investigate the assessment issue in Ford County. Allen said the county board has legal grounds to fire Langland for malfeasance because she did not keep her office open during posted hours, appointed assessors and performed nonuniform assessments.

Langland, however, said her office was always open and she was there unless she was taking a restroom break. At one point the door was closed because of online training, Langland said.  Langland also said she never appointed any assessors.

James DiNaso of Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County told the county board that it is opening itself up to potential legal action against it. DiNaso said his group has filed a federal lawsuit against the Coles County Board alleging taxpayers’ rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have been violated. The constitutional amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection under the law and says citizens cannot be denied life, liberty or property without due process of law, DiNaso said.

DiNaso said he sees similarities between what has occurred in Coles County and in Ford County. In Coles County, DiNaso said, one township had not been reassessed in 16 years and then assessments were brought up drastically to compensate. DiNaso urged the Ford County Board to “become educated.”

“Otherwise, you’ll run people out of here,” DiNaso said.

Rex Dukeman, also of Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County, told the county board that it could ignore the new assessments issued by Langland’s office. There is no penalty under state law for that, Dukeman said.

Ford County residents also had their say.

“The average Joe doesn’t understand the law. We need an investigation and a resignation (by Langland),” said Deb Ehmen, who left numerous written questions for Langland.

Cindy Ihrke of rural Roberts, who is running as a write-in candidate for the county board in District 2, said she found Langland’s actions “illegal and unacceptable.” Ihrke claimed there was no public posting of the annual meeting of the county assessors and questioned whether it was even held. Ihrke also asked for Langland’s resignation — and, absent that, that the board terminate her employment.

Langland said that when properties were re-assessed, she and the multi-township assessors came up with nine categories of properties 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 per square foot and others $30.

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

Langland said illegal “sales-chasing” had been going on for years in Ford County, adding that assessing properties that way — based on what was paid for property — is inequitable. Langland said she held the annual meeting of assessors but acknowledged that she may not have posted a notice of the meeting publicly before-hand.

“I have 17 years’ experience in real estate, 17 years on the Kankakee County Board of Review, but I can continue to learn,” Langland said. “I can do something different if I’m told to.”

The Edgar County Watchdogs were instrumental in uncovering various abuses at the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department, leading to its dissolution. Allen said his group’s investigations throughout the state have resulted in 168 indictments, 20 convictions and many other pending court cases.

 

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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