School Districts Consider Cooperation Against Tax Appeals
Agreement would bring together District 87 and any interested feeder districts to formalize partnerships against assessed valuation appeals that could cost the districts significant tax dollars.
There are currently 29,000 outstanding appeals of assessed valuations across Illinois, according to the executive director and general consul, Louis G. Apostol, of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board.
Two of those are in Lombard, and they've gotten the attention of School Districts 41 and 87.
If successful, the appeals of the Glen River Apartments and Willow Lake apartment complexes, located in Lombard, would cost District 41 alone $55,000 in property tax revenue, according to Bob Ciserella, District 41 assistant superintendant of finance, facilities and operations.
That’s because the property owners are not only looking to pay less property tax going forward, they are also seeking retroactive refunds, meaning they want tax money back that they’ve already paid.
Soon, District 41 and District 87 may have a formalized agreement to share legal costs for participation against similar appeals made by property owners unhappy with the county’s assessed valuations of their property, District 41 Director of Communications Julie Worthen said.
Worthen said Districts 41 and 87 are working together and sharing legal representation on the Glen River and Willow Lake cases, though it is a "working agreement" that has no official framework like an agreement would in the future.
According to Worthen, the school district, along with other taxing bodies such as the park district and village council, is notified of a contest only if the reduction sought by the property owner is $100,000 or more. Taxing bodies may decide to intervene in contests if a reduction means reduced or refunded tax revenue.
“In big commercial cases, we have quite a few interveners,” Apostol said. School districts and municipalities have “a legitimate right” to fight against value reductions, he said. “They’re concerned that they’re losing tax base. They’re very concerned with tax flow.”
Ciserella called district action “a rare occurrence” that he estimated occurs once per year. Worthen said the district only acts on appeals from commercial properties.
“At this time we can’t foresee ever going after a residential intervention,” she said.
The Glen Ellyn apartment cases are retroactive, meaning that in addition to lowered future tax revenues for the district, the property owners are seeking refunds for overpayment in past years.
Joel Cunningham, a spokesman for the Willow Lake property owner, The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc., e-mailed the following statement when asked about the case.
“Inland is committed to ensuring that all of its properties are being taxed fairly and accurately. As the assessment review process for the Willow Lake Apartments is still underway, we cannot offer comment at this time,” Cunningham said.
The two properties fall within the shared jurisdiction of Districts 41 and 87. The proposed agreement would provide a framework for partnership.
According to Chris McClain,District 87 assistant superintendant for business service, the District first came up with the idea for an agreement. He said the Glenbard district has reached out to its six feeder districts to gauge interest.
Only 41 and 89 have shown interest thus far, McClain said.
“It makes good business sense to pool efforts and share the cost of legal expense,” McClain said. The question, he said, is, “By working as a contingent of government entities, how can we work together as a team and save our taxpayers money?”
McClain said the goal is to make a cooperative official with the start of the new fiscal school year July 1. Worthen said the agreement is nothing groundbreaking.
“It’s not an unusual thing when governmental bodies have a shared interest to work together,” Worthen said. “It really wouldn’t change that much.”
According to McClain, those districts who entered the agreement would only contribute to legal expenses if the properties whose owners take action are located within their jurisdiction. For example, District 89 would not contribute financially to a case located within the jurisdiction of District 41 with the expectation that such a favor would be returned when District 89 had a case.
McClain said it will mostly be a series of prorated agreements between District 87 and the single feeder district potentially affected.
The wording of the inter-district agreement has not yet been finalized by District 87, according to McClain, and will be adjusted based on the districts that choose to participate. For District 41, Worthen said, there’s been nothing more than discussion of the agreement.
Apostol of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board said there are approximately 11,000 property tax appeals from all over the state that reach the board in a typical year. Many of those 29,000 current cases stem from falling property values.
Apostol said a majority of those cases are appeals by residential property owners.
Property owners appealing valuations typically do so in order to lower their property tax, Apostol said.
According to Apostol, if a property owner disagrees with the assessed valuation of their property, they first appeal to the county assessor. If the assessor doesn’t give them the decision they want, the property owner has 30 days to file with the county board of review. If again they’re unsatisfied, the property owner has another 30 days to file with the state appeal board.
For cases appealed to the state board, Apostol said, a formal docket is designed and evidence is accepted from the owner. The county has a chance for rebut before the property owner gets the last word if he or she wants to dispute the rebuttal. Administrative law judges preside over the hearings.
“If you have a simple, residential complaint, it could take a year, year-and-a-half to resolve,” Apostol said. “If it’s commercial, usually there is a lot more to it.”