Shame on the Coles County officials who allowed 16 years to pass without regular property assessments.

Now, many commercial and industrial property owners are experiencing sticker shock as their updated land values rise by significant percentages with new assessments made by the county's hired local appraiser, Bob Becker.

Some business owners have complained about the method Becker is using to reach the new assessments. It's typical, however, to determine a property's estimated value by looking at sales of similar sites. Becker is just one of the messengers.

He isn't one of those who dropped the ball over 16 years and failed to maintain regular assessments on county property. Now the accrued value of those years is arriving in the form of a single tax bill to landowners.

This is a clear burden on property owners. Numerous business owners are taking big hits. Imagine a homeowner whose property assessment goes up, for example, 50 percent, let alone the higher percentages many businesses are reporting.

They might need medical attention after receiving news like that via mail.

It's wholly unfair for such large assessment changes to come down on property owners at one time. Despite the appeals process, there is no mechanism in place for taxpayers to pay the increase in increments, according to state law. It's pay up, or else.

That's wrong. There should be more avenues of recourse for property owners, especially when it's the county that's been severely lax over nearly two decades in assessing properties.

There is plenty of blame to be assigned. But just to whom we should assign that blame is much less clear.

More than one person has served as the county's supervisor of assessments since the last round of valuations in 2001. Karen Biddle, new to holding that position, is trying to rectify the situation by spearheading new, regular assessments going forward.

But it appears that the office of supervisor of assessments has little oversight. The county board's Office and Rules Committee oversees that position. Why the lack of assessments done over the years was not brought to light before now remains an unanswered question.

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And it's not the supervisors of assessments only who have been remiss here. At least some township assessors also apparently have not maintained assessments, as is part of their duties.

Catching up on this task is the right thing for the county to do. A repeat of this debacle must be prevented.

Most vocal have been business owners getting hit hard with big new tax bills. We see the other side of the coin as well, however: Property owners did not have to pay higher taxes all these years when their land became more valuable, and they didn't complain then. Plus, taxpayer-supported entities from the county board to schools to townships and more lost out on revenue.

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That's a large amount of funds nearly impossible to calculate. The ripple effects of this snafu go so far as to be difficult to follow.

The fact remains that for many property owners, this really hurts. This is no way to be supportive of our local businesses.

This debacle is unfair to all: property owners and local taxpayer-funded entities alike. The county is right to rectify this problem now, yet being unable to identify those who were remiss and allowed this to happen is unfair as well. Citizens have a right to know why this problem began and was allowed to continue for so long.

The new assessments are just beginning, so there is sure to be more outcry over this issue. The county deserves to take heat for it, yet most of the individuals who should be held accountable are no longer in the positions they held while this problem was allowed to build up.

Current and future county leaders had better see that this assessment stall doesn't happen again. We'll be watching and taking down names as this process goes forward. We and all taxpayers must hold Coles County officials accountable for continuing the process of regular property tax assessments.

How silly we were in the first place to expect those responsible to simply do their jobs.

-- JG-TC Editorial Board

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