CHARLESTON -- A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against Coles County filed by a group opposing a county property reassessment project.
The three-judge Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago issued its ruling on Thursday without comment.
It affirmed a federal district court judge's decision in December that agreed with attorneys representing the county, who argued that federal courts aren't the proper venue for such cases.
Two members of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County, Robb Perry and Rex Dukeman, were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The group's opposition arose from the project that's determining new taxing values for the county's commercial and industrial property.
More recently, the group also filed a similar lawsuit in Coles County court, though it's based on different contentions.
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In response to the federal appeals court's decision, Concerned Taxpayers member James DiNaso said the judges "refused to analyze the case on its merits" and "focused solely" on the jurisdictional issue.
"We look forward to our day in state court and believe we will win that case on its merits," DiNaso said.
Attempts to contact county officials for reaction to the federal appeal court's decision weren't successful Friday.
Among the federal lawsuit's contentions was that the method the county's using for the reassessment is unconstitutional because the new taxing values aren't being applied to the entire county at the same time.
That created a higher tax burden for business owners in the areas with the new values than for those in the rest of the county, the lawsuit alleged.
However, in December a district federal court judge granted a motion from attorneys for the county seeking dismissal.
U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce said federal courts are prohibited from making orders on state law tax issues if there's a "plain, speedy and efficient remedy" available in state court.
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The reassessment began in 2015 after the county's commercial and industrial property hadn't received new values since a countywide reassessment in 2001.
The county opted to do the reassessment over four years, one different part of the county each year for four years, which officials said was to spread out the cost.
Business property in Mattoon Township was the first to be reassessed, and notices of new values were what led to the questions and complaints about the project.
Meanwhile, the group filed another lawsuit in Coles County Circuit Court earlier this month with that case based largely on a different contention.
That complaint asks that the county's contract with the person doing the reassessment be voided and that the county be prevented from using property values calculated during the project.
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It refers to a 1943 Illinois Supreme Court ruling that said there's no authority to use a hired contractor to perform work that's the state-designated duty of a public office.
The Concerned Tax payers group has argued against the legality of the county's hiring of appraiser Bob Becker to do the reassessment instead of the work being done by the County Supervisor of Assessment's Office.
The case awaits the defendants' formal response and no hearings are yet scheduled in the matter.
The county court complaint followed last month's ruling by Circuit Judge Jonathan Braden that gave the group the go-ahead to take the action.
The judge's authorization was needed because county State's Attorney Brian Bower and the Illinois Attorney General's Office both declined to take legal action against the reassessment when the group requested it.