I cut my political teeth while McHenry County Treasurer in 1959-70 by challenging real estate assessments before the McHenry County Board of Review (a fool’s errand in those days) and, then, appealing them to the newly-former Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board.
I had read the decision railroad lawyers had gotten. It said that taxes for rights-of-way in each county should be based on assessments equaling the county average.
So the Involved Citizens Association and I conducted two studies to find out what the average (median) assessment level was in McHenry County.
We used two different methodologies
- We compared assessments on homes with the amount that tax stamps on deeds indicated the homes’ values.
- We sent questionnaires to home purchases for the same year asking what they paid for their homes.
Both studies yielded the same result.
As I remember the finding was that the median assessment level was 43.2%. Something close to that anyway.
At the time, the rules laid down by McHenry County Supervisor of Assessments were that all residences were to be assessed at 60% of market value.
Turns out that most township assessors went “wink, wink, nod, not” and assessed only the new homes purchased by people in subdivisions like Crystal Lake’s Coventry at 60%.
Obviously, a lot of older homes were assessed a lot less or the median (mid-point when lining all the percentage figures up from high to low) could not have been 43%.
The new home buyers who figured how they were being discriminated against were, of course, quite upset.
Fourteen appealed all the way to the State Board.
As McHenry County Treasurer, I was handing out $500 refund checks to Coventry homeowners.
Great publicity for me, undoubtedly helping me get elected State Rep. in 1972.
This year and two years ago, Crystal Lake attorney Jim Bishop did the heavy lifting.
Due to the absurdity that the County Board of Review will not take into account distressed sales, he advised me to get an appraisal. I did from Crystal Lake’s Meador and Associates.
Recently, I received a letter from Bishop telling me my assessment had been decreased from $107,595 to $101,657.
A 5.5% cut in my assessment worth a bit over $500.
Not as big a percentage cut as the new homeowners got back in 1970–a cut of almost 30%–but worth the effort.
After we got the decision, Joanne Wojcik gave me a fiber board sword painted gold with a sparkling ribbon. On it was written, “Tax Avenger.” It recently got destroyed in a kids’ sword fight.