CHARLESTON -- Coles County Board critics renewed their concerns about a county property reassessment and board members' health insurance.

Ongoing criticism of the reassessment included a point of contention from one opponent about not receiving complete information about how the project was conducted.

"We still can't get the answers," James DiNaso of the Concerned Tax Payers of Coles County said during the board's meeting Tuesday. "The numbers still don't make sense."

He characterized the board's response to questions and criticism of the reassessment as "a perpetual holding pattern."

In response, board Vice Chairman Brandon Bell said the county Supervisor of Assessments Office has provided all the information about the reassessment the Concerned Tax Payers have requested.

Bell acknowledged difficulties in the office with the recent lack of a permanent assessment supervisor in place since former supervisor Karen Biddle's retirement in November.

A vote on appointing a new supervisor is set to be on the agenda for the board's August meeting.

"We have a lot of things to fix in that office," said Bell, chairman of the board's Offices and Rules Committee that oversees the assessment office. "We're eventually going to get there."

DiNaso also said he felt the board should follow a suggestion that member Rick Shook made during an earlier meeting, to have appraiser Bob Becker attend a meeting to answer questions about how he conducted the reassessment.

The reassessment addressed the county's commercial and industrial property. It began in 2015 after those classifications of property hadn't received new values for taxing purposes since a countywide reassessment in 2001.

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Questions and criticism began shortly after that when the first group of business property owners received notices of the properties' new values.

Concerned Tax Payers members have now addressed the board about the issue during each of its monthly meetings. The group's efforts has included lawsuits with a case filed in Coles County still pending.

Also during the meeting, Concerned Tax Payers member Rex Dukeman again brought up contentions that board members aren't eligible for county health insurance if it's not authorized before each election.

Board Chairman Mike ZuHone, however, noted an opinion county State's Attorney Jesse Danley authored concluding that the insurance is allowed since the board first approved it in 1977.

The insurance is a "fringe benefit" and not the same as salary as the critics are claiming, ZuHone said.

"This has been decided," he said. "I don't see us making a change."

Also, in response to county resident Les Combs' questions about the end of a rural trash drop off program, ZuHone said a similar program might be implemented.

The earlier program ended because the county discovered a state permit was needed to operate it the way it was being conducted, ZuHone noted.

Meanwhile, the board's votes during the meeting included approving funding and a contract for a $214,000 pavement sealing project on Etna Road west of U.S. Route 45 south of Mattoon.

The board also approved the annual renewal of the county's agreement with the Coles County Council on Aging to operate the Dial-A-Ride public transportation system.

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Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave



Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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