Waukegan Township assessed valuations increase

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

San Yingling

The assessed valuations of Waukegan Township properties will increase by 13 percent in 2018, when tax bills are issued to owners next spring.

The Chief County Assessor’s Office of Lake County confirmed the figure, as controversy continues to surround the methods employed by the chief assessor for his computations, while disregarding township assessors’ equalization factors, during non-quadrennial assessment years, resulting in “blanket increases.”

CCAO Martin Paulson has been embroiled in two lawsuits brought by the Lake County Township Assessors Association that were summarily dismissed by county judges on the premise that the township association “had no standing.” He also benefited from a Lake County Board resolution passed by a 14-5 vote July 10 under #18-0774, which requested Gov. Bruce Rauner use his amendatory veto power to deny a bill sponsored by state Rep. Sam Yingling (D-62nd).

Senate Bill 2544, which passed through both houses of the state legislature, outlined a referendum question for the Nov. 6 general election ballot asking voters whether the office of CCAO should become an elected position instead of an appointed one by the Lake County Board Chairman. The board’s resolution stated the bill unfairly targeted Lake County, and no other counties, in its wording. Rauner vetoed the measure Aug. 27.

“The problem was one unit of government may not be the same as another unit of government, and the district is responsible to its taxpayers for assessments,” said state Sen. Pam Althoff (R-32nd). “The bill was not approved … the county board chairman is also not elected by the population at large. It should be one or the other, the county chair or the CCAO.

“I wrote a letter to the Illinois Attorney General asking for a ruling on two statutes that pertain to non-quadrennial assessments. They would not intervene or make a ruling, as the lawsuits were still pending in the court system,” she said. “My recommendation is that it be handled legislatively in the next session for a true definition of the roles of each of these offices.”

Lake County Chief Assessment Officer Martin Paulson. (North Park University faculty guide)

Grant Township Assessor Jeri Barr stated that an attorney general opinion had been sought twice, and they were the basis of both civil litigations. It was also alleged in one filing that Paulson had “capriciously” changed property values for several parcel owners including one in Libertyville Township, without a board of review hearing.

At issue is the interpretation of two Illinois Compiled Statutes pertaining to the property tax code, 35 ILCS 200/9-150 and 35 ILCS 200/9-75. One outlines a property being classified for purposes of taxation, as prescribed by law or ordinance, and the other deals with the CCAO having the right to revise an assessment in any year “to appear just.” The quadrennial assessment is completed every four years by township assessors as the tax basis, but can be revised in other years.

“We asked that two statutes be interpreted, as this is what it comes down to … we can revise and correct, we went out and did that last year, per Illinois Department of Revenue standards. Martin Paulson disallowed it as re-evaluation, not equalization,” Barr said.

“He reviewed our submissions, and reverted back to the original equalized assessed

valuations from previous years, a multiplying factor across the board in every township. Grant Township has had a 27 percent increase on property values in the last three years,” she said. “Every township has areas that are better than others in value, and he has interpreted the statute in a different way than other counties, there’s no consistency.”

When contacted, Paulson said, “I have a responsibility to review their assessments, and I have the authority to change them, just as the township assessors do. We are following state law.”

Paulson added that it was “not my place to comment,” regarding the litigation and aftermath. Since 2003, Paulson has served in the CCAO position. He has an M.B.A. and M.S. degree, according to the county website.

The website also says, there are 18 townships in Lake County, each with its own assessor charged with the task of estimating the fair market value of real property in their jurisdiction. They must assess at 33.3 percent of that value amount using guidelines established by the state of Illinois Department of Revenue sales ratio studies, for the previous three years, to arrive at a fair tax burden amount.

The Waukegan Township Assessor’s Office covers areas of Waukegan, North Chicago, and Beach Park.