Thursday, March 13, 2008

This just in: Peoria Real Estate taxes too high!

Ever since DeWayne Bartels did me dirty in an interview, I rarely pick up the Peoria Times-Observer. But this morning before the unwrapped paper hit the trash can I couldn't help but notice the headline through the plastic blue sleeve: Taxation Board gets bad review. Apparently, County Board member Merle Widmer, Clyde Hendricks, a Peoria Attorney, and Vivian Hagaman, a local tax appeal specialist have found the real estate tax appeal process unfair, questionable and cumbersome.

Noooooooo! Reeeaaaallly? This is exactly what I told Dewayne back in October when taxpayers still had a chance to do something about it. But at the time he filed me under "one woman show on a mission". Apparently, had there been a little more testosterone coursing through my veins he would have paid better attention.

According to Dewaynes article, there have been at least 1500 appeal cases that have been denied at the local board of review level and are being further appealed to the state. (That number has not been verified by the state). In the past, there have been fewer than 100. Peoria Attorney Clyde Hendricks is quoted as saying he is concerned that the board of review is acting illegally as county employees and trying to raise county revenues, when in fact, the Board of Review by its very nature should be disinterested in the outcome of the appeal.

According to the article, Hagaman states that her success rate in appealing property taxes this year fell to less than one percent, down from 95% in years past.

Widmer, who is appealing his own taxes to the state, feels the need to investigate the Board of reviews actions and policies.

My view: Peoria Real estate assessments are made by nothing more than a computer program. A computer program does not come out and see your house, it does not come in to your home, it does not factor in the nuances between homes and neighborhoods, it does not reflect current consumer confidence or market fluctuations. In short, it utilizes what we call in the real estate business - the SWAG method - a sophisticated wild-assed guess! Another big flaw: The assessment process presumes stable or rising prices in housing for at least a four year period. It is possible that housing values in certain neighborhoods can actually decline.

I am shocked to hear that Ms. Hagaman has reported a less than one percent success rate in local board of review appeals. If Bill Gates himself wrote the county assessment program it couldn't be that accurate, and in my estimation she should be seeing at least a 50% success rate. This suggests that there may have been some sort of predetermined plan to deny her claims- unless the appeal board can show that the overall success rate of appeals was less than 1%- a fact I would find impossible to accept.

Another disturbing comment in the article was an assertion from Gary Shadid (who I think is the head-dude at the Board of Review) that past Board of Reviews acted with a lack of integrity. Now I'm no brain surgeon, but something tells me that he better start practicing his apologies.

In a related article, editors of the Times Observer laid out a good case for Peoria County Board Chairman Bill Prather to order an open inquiry of the Board of Review and give the public some answers about the integrity and transparency of the process. Mr. Prathers phone number is 309-672-6056

Finally, on a personal note, I would like to say that I was one of the homeowners who appealed our tax assessment under the new board rules. We won our tax appeal, so we are not one of the alleged 1500 or so that will appeal to the state. In the past, however, under one of the board of Reviews - you know, the ones that "lacked integrity"... we lost locally, appealed to the state, and won! Additionally, when we had our last hearing I found Gary Shadid friendly and engaging, and I think he took a little extra time with me to make sure we "understood each other".

Oh, and DeWayne, I'm still waiting for my apology.

5 comments:

newsanchormom.com said...

This is eye-opening Diane. Thanks I didn't realize what was going on. I do have the Observer somewhere in the house. I will have to check it out.

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks, Diana. What upset me the 2nd most was that Shadid asked me to take a deposition so that he could send my appeal to the state. I did and waited. Approximately three monts later I received a letter from the County Board of Review that there would be no change my valuation.

Was my appeal and suppporting paper work ever sent to Springfield? No, it's still sitting in the Assesors office and I am paying to file an appeal from which I don't expect to learn a decision for two years.

This situation is not over yet. Anyone can attend the Tax/EDC Committee meeting at 2:00 Thursday March 27, Room 402 County Court House.

Anyone who feels they were treated unfairly, treated with out concern or courteously, should attend. They should also file their complaint with Board Chairman Prather.

I will be at the meeting.

Thanks, Diane

C. J. Summers said...

Great post!

Peoria Pundit said...

Interesting.

Diane Vespa said...

Wow, PP and CJ, thanks for those very deep and thought provoking comments. ;)