CHARLESTON -- Part of the ongoing criticism from a group opposing a Coles County reassessment project is the handling of an assessment appeal from a county board member.
The county Board of Review lowered the value for taxing purposes of property owned by Paul Daily, based on the classification of a building on the parcel of land.
Members of the Concerned Tax Payers of Coles County question the extent of the documentation Daily had to provide to get the change, group member James DiNaso said.
"What justified the decrease?" DiNaso said. "It gives the appearance of impropriety."
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However, Daily said the building was not classified correctly, with the entire structure first listed as a farm building. Part is used for the seed business he owns and was actually commercial property, which is assessed differently, he said.
"I did exactly what any taxpayer can do," Daily said. "I don't know why they say the things they say when there's nothing to it."
The county started reassessing commercial and industrial property in 2015 because it had not been reassessed since 2001. Complaints and opposition started soon after that, when business owners began receiving notices of their properties' new values.
The Concerned Tax Payers group regularly addresses the county board during its monthly meetings. DiNaso brought up the subject of Daily's property during the board's meeting on March 12.
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According to county records, Daily appealed the assessment of part of the property at 4069 Etna Road, where his farm, business and residence are located. The changes the Board of Review approved included lowering the sale value of the building from $139,500 to $50,655.
"I was kind of surprised that it was an issue," said Daily, who represents county board District 6 in the southwestern part of the county. He said the property's classification had not changed in the time he has owned it.
The reassessment had the building classified as farm use because there was no on-site examination of the property, Board of Review Chairman Matt Frederick said.
County records show that Daily provided documents detailing the building's uses. Frederick said they showed how much of the building was used for each purpose and the three members of the Board of Review all voted in favor of lowering the assessment.
"We've done that numerous times for numerous taxpayers," Frederick said.
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However, DiNaso said he and other business owners who have appealed their properties' new assessments had to hire appraisers to provide figures to support their positions.
"I've never heard of anything like that," DiNaso said of a change based a building's use. "We have to play by different rules."
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The other members of the Board of Review are Gerald Herman and Dan Lawrence. Lawrence is a former county board member who has also been the subject of the Concerned Tax Payers' criticism.
At the last county board meeting, DiNaso said Lawrence's appointment to the Board of Review "gives the aura of favoritism."
Lawrence also said the Board of Review did not do anything for Daily it has not done for other property owners. He noted that all three of the board's members agreed to the change.
"I try to be as fair as possible," Lawrence said. "I don't understand why it would even be questioned."
Lawrence also disputes the Concerned Tax Payers' contentions that he is not qualified for the Board of Review position. He said he recently took the test the Illinois Department of Revenue requires. He provided a copy of a letter that showed his score was 92 percent correct, when 70 percent correct was needed to pass.
Meanwhile, DiNaso has also claimed Daily's Board of Review hearing was rescheduled to prevent Concerned Tax Payers members from attending. At the last county board meeting, he said he did not "buy the reason" given for the scheduling.
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The final schedule for hearings at the time, including Daily's on Jan. 16, was posted publicly as required, former acting Supervisor of Assessments Andrew Milliman said. Daily's was first set for the middle day of three days of hearings, Milliman said. His hearing was moved to the first day because of the number of hearings on the other days, Milliman explained.
Daily said he only received notice of the hearing on Jan. 16 and was never notified that it was changed. He also defended his refusal to respond to the Concerned Tax Payers' questions and comments during county board meetings. Meetings of the board's committees are the proper venues for that, he said.
"They don't listen to us, anyway," Daily said of the group.
DiNaso said he feels there is "no reason" a question or comment to a single board member should be limited to a committee meeting.
"He's been very arrogant and hasn't listened to us at all," DiNaso said of Daily. "The idea that we don't listen is not true."