Challenging Property Assessments To Increase School Funds

April 19, 2010

By Alan M. Mullins

All taxing bodies have the right to appeal the assessed values assigned to properties within their boundaries, whether by initiating appeals or by intervening in the property owners’ appeals.  The Illinois Appellate Court recently held that a school district’s right to appeal a perceived under-valuation of a property is no less important than the property owner’s right to appeal a perceived over-valuation.

In Minooka Community High School District No. 111 v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, the City of Aux Sable owned a natural gas extraction facility.  It appealed the 2004 assessed value of its property to the Property Tax Appeal Board (“PTAB”).  Once Aux Sable filed its appeal, the local school districts were precluded from initiating their own appeal of Aux Sable’s assessed value because PTAB will accept only one appeal for any property for a particular tax year.  PTAB requires other parties who wish to file related appeals to intervene in the pending appeal, which the local school districts did.

After the school districts filed their joint intervention, Aux Sable decided that it would rather accept the assessed value given its property than face the school districts’ appraisal evidence at a hearing, and thus filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal.   The school districts objected because they wanted their under-valuation claim heard. PTAB granted the motion to dismiss and the school districts appealed that decision to the Appellate Court.  In a victory for intervening school districts, the Appellate Court held that PTAB lacked the authority to dismiss an appeal over the school districts’ objections.  In essence, the Court held that even though the property owner abandoned its over- valuation claim, the school districts could continue to pursue their under-valuation claim.

In times of teacher layoffs and slim budgets, school boards cannot afford to ignore the undervaluation of properties within their districts. Yet we observe that by and large, our clients are under utilizing the property tax appeals process, thereby potentially leaving money on the table. If you are interested in challenging the undervaluation of properties within your District, either through intervention in an appeal or filing your own challenge, please contact Alan M. Mullins at 312-565-3100, ext. 236 or amullins@edlawyer.com.

School Districts Can Get Additional State Aid Due To Reductions In Their Total Assessed Values

April 16, 2010

By: Alan M. Mullins

One factor in calculating state aid for school districts is the total assessed values of property in the district. Generally, lower assessed property values results in more state aid.  Total assessed values are routinely reduced by Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) dispositions and certificates of error* after state aid has been awarded.  Except for Cook County, the State Board of Education automatically receives information regarding PTAB dispositions and recalculates state aid based on those dispositions.  However, ISBE does not receive information regarding reduced assessed values due to certificates of error, and it also does not receive information regarding PTAB dispositions for property in Cook County.  The result is that a school district can lose out on an increase in general state aid.

We are available to collect the information regarding certificates of error and to submit applications to the State Board of Education for recalculation of state aid for the 2001 thru 2007 fiscal years.  You may be aware of people who perform this service for a percentage of the additional state aid gained from the recalculation.  Scariano, Himes and Petrarca performs this service for clients at our regular hourly rate resulting in substantial savings to our clients.  If you would like assistance in applying for a recalculation of state aid, please contact Alan M. Mullins in our Chicago Office at 312-565-3100, ext. 236 or amullins@edlawyer.com no later than May 1, 2010 so that we can submit a timely application.

* A certificate of error is issued after property assessments have been certified for a particular year and the assessor discovers a mistake in the assessment of a property that will reduce the assessed value by less than $100,000 or discovers that the property did not receive an exemption for which it was due.