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Franks proposes property assessment legislation

County officials say higher assessments aren't reason for rising bills

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 5:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 11:39 p.m. CDT

Hoping to give property taxpayers more of a say in the property-tax appeals process, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, has introduced a bill he calls a “property taxpayer’s bill of rights.”

If passed, the proposed legislation would require property assessors to justify any property assessment increase greater than 5 percent, compared with the previous year’s assessed value, during an appeals process.

“Every day I hear from constituents who are concerned that their property taxes continually go up without any connection to what’s going on in the outside world,” Franks said.

The proposed change, which was introduced Thursday, puts the burden of proof on the assessor to prove why an increased property value is warranted.

Currently, during a property value appeals process, when property owners try to have their assessments lowered, it is up to the homeowner to supply recent sales data of comparable homes showing that their house has been overassessed. The comparable properties have to be of similar size, story height, quality of construction and style.

Homeowners also can show they are being overassessed compared with nearby properties by providing the market values and assessments of comparable houses.

Franks’ bill also would allow boards of review to grant continuances for any hearing upon a written request from the taxpayer.

“I introduced this legislation to give taxpayers a stronger voice in the assessment process because it is very clear that without their increased involvement, taxing bodies will just continue to take more,” he said.

Franks proposal also requires assessors, county treasurers and board of review members to pursue 15 hours of continuing education each year. Curriculum for the continuing education courses would have to be approved by the state’s Department of Revenue.

“By guaranteeing the right of taxpayers to basic standards of conduct on the part of taxing bodies, we can force taxing bodies to issue more responsible assessments,” Franks said in a news release. “That is the ultimate goal here: relief for taxpayers from the long-standing trend of endlessly rising tax bills.”

Robert Ross, the chief assessment officer for the county, pointed out that assessments are not the reason why tax bills go up. Tax bills go up when taxing districts ask for increased revenue during the levy process, he said.

Ross added that assessments in the county have been decreasing over the years.

Appraisers and assessors already have to pursue 60 hours of continuing education every four years to maintain their certified Illinois assessment officer designation, Ross said.

Ross said boards of review can ask township assessors why they assessed properties a certain way during appeals hearings.

“I understand ... Representative Franks wants to alleviate increased property taxes, but I don’t think you can blame assessments,” Ross said.

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