CHARLESTON -- Coles County Board members were admonished Tuesday about continuing with the next stage of a reassessment project, which an opponent said would be a "willful" violation of the law.
James DiNaso of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County said the county should delay sending notices to business owners in Charleston Township of their new property values.
He said the board's earlier position was that it couldn't rescind progress on reassessing commercial and industrial property in Mattoon Township was because property owners there had already received their notices.
The reassessment in Charleston Township is completed and notices are set to go to property owners later this month, according to the county Supervisor of Assessments Office.
DiNaso told the board that doing that would further the problem of putting an unequal tax burden on business owners in areas that have been reassessed.
"We should have done this before," DiNaso said. "We should have all sat down and worked this out so everyone would be reassessed together."
DiNaso's comments referred to the method the county chose to reassess commercial and industrial property, which hadn't received new values for taxing purposes since 2001.
The board opted to divide the county into four sections and do one section each year, which county officials said would spread out the cost of the project.
Questions and criticism of the project aimed at the board began a year ago after Mattoon Township business owners received the notices of their new property values.
Since then, the opposition has grown into a more organized effort that included the filing of a federal lawsuit against the county.
As mentioned Tuesday, the lawsuit's main contention is that the process violated constitutional equal protection clauses. Mainly, the suit contends that it raised the tax burden on Mattoon Township before any changes in the rest of the county.
"Your are in deliberate and willful violation of the law," DiNaso said during Tuesday's board meeting. "If this board decides to do this, you're going to be held accountable."
Board members for the most part didn't respond to DiNaso or others about the reassessment, though member Rick Shook said taxes in his Mattoon-area board district decreased this year.
DiNaso argued that was because of a change in the Mattoon school district's levy and the decrease largely affected residential property.
Some who addressed the board Tuesday also mentioned the county's 2018 fiscal year budget. The board voted to approve the budget, which includes a 2-percent increase in its employee salary line item.
Concerned Taxpayers member Rex Dukeman said the board should limit budget increases. Board Chairman Stan Metzger said the salary increase came to about $50,000 and explained that it wasn't a 2-percent increase of each employee's salary.
The board's vote on the $12.9 million budget and other matters were all 9-0. Members Brandon Bell, Brian Marvin and Cory Sanders didn't attend the meeting.
The other votes included:
Reducing the speed limit on a 2.7-mile section of Old State Road in Charleston Township at the Charleston city limits from 55 mph to 45 mph.
Approving an agreement with the village of Lerna for the county Sheriff's Office to provide ordinance enforcement.
- Approving funding agreements with Ashmore and Hutton townships for culvert replacements.
Renewing the annual operating grant for the Dial-A-Ride public transportation program.