A press release from Grafton Township Assessor Al Zielinski:
Grafton Township Assessor’s Office Forced to Close Due to Inadequate Funding
HUNTLEY, IL (April 11, 2014) – Grafton Township turned abruptly on its heels last night and returned to contention versus consensus when it was discovered the assessor’s office’s budget was dramatically reduced to its fiscal year 2013-14 spending versus the frugal and thoughtful budget submitted by the Assessor.
A slap in our face
Assessor Zielinski’s face was ashen and his words measured but the pain was clearly evident in his words.
“Not only was the alternative budget determined without our input, we weren’t included in the e-mail distribution of the Board packet that contained it.
“It was pure happenstance that we discovered what was happening before being blindsided at next Monday’s township meeting.
“That’s not how teams work and win.”
“The deputies and I invested numerous hours building a budget from the ground up, looking forward and considering the needs of Grafton Township as it corrects it past assessment shortcomings and prepares for the 2015 quadrennial assessment.
“No games were involved, i.e., no requests were made for more than what is needed so some could be negotiated away.” continued Zielinski.
“Further, after being e-mailed to all Board members last Friday, two of the four Trustees haven’t even bothered to open my e-mail so they could read and consider our proposed budget.
“How can they fulfill their fiduciary duties to Grafton’s citizens when they don’t even bother reading what was sent to them?” lamented Zielinski.
Illinois Property Tax Code Violations
Zielinski continued with another aspect he feels is pivotal to avoiding a return to litigation: adherence to the Property Tax Code.
“It appears this administration failed to learn from the legal failures of its predecessors: Illinois statutes are clear that only the Assessor can determine and submit the budget for his office.1 They also clearly state the Board cannot approve or disapprove a township assessor’s personnel. 2 ”
As to the past assessment shortcomings left by his predecessor, Zielinski would publicly state only three:
- 14,000+ of the township’s 21,000+ parcels do not have recent pictures as required by the Property Tax Code 3,
- some commercial properties appear to have received special treatment and are almost criminally under-assessed and
- a departmental Employee Handbook was absent for at least 12 years4.
How the Supervisor and Board could drastically cut the assessor’s budget in light of those and other discretions baffles Zielinski. His only conclusion:
“Neither the Supervisor nor the Board have a clue what we do or the state of the township relative to the assessments that form the basis for its property taxes. No wonder taxpayers are up in arms and appeals are at record levels.”
Putting and Keeping Taxpayers First
“Two of my campaign promises were austerity and implementing systems that would provide high returns on investment to Grafton Township’s residents and businesses. The budget we submitted achieved exactly that. It concentrated on creating office efficiency where none existed and providing the highest-qualified staff .”
Zielinski continued with three examples.
- Saving the township at least 33% (more than $4,000 thus far) on much-needed, critical technology upgrades.
- Implementing software that will dramatically increase residential and commercial assessment accuracy.
- Reducing the headcount from seven to six but increasing the deputies’ credentials – all at a lower cost!
Hopefully by this time next year, three of the current four deputies will have achieved their CIAO-M designation: the highest offered by Illinois.
Further, two basic CIAO deputies were replaced by Certified Appraisers: one Certified General and one Certified Residential.
The proposed budget’s austerity is clear when one compares it to previous years.
The fiscal year 2014-2015 budget for the Assessor’s office is less than $520,000. That is:
- almost $50,000 below the Assessor’s adopted budget for FY 2013-2014 and
- almost $60,000 below the Assessor’s adopted budget for FY 2012-2013.
As such, it represents dramatic decreases in the requested funds yet provides significant increases in the Assessor’s Office productivity, accuracy and professionalism.
Doing at Least as Well if not Better than Our Neighbors
The final comparison Zielinski made in defending his budget was relative to neighboring townships. The results were crystal clear.
“We compared Grafton’s proposed budget to our neighboring townships on parcel count and percentage of property tax revenue bases. In both cases, Grafton’s proposed budget falls well within the range of the other townships.” stated Zielinski.
A Plea for Help
Zielinski concluded with a straightforward plea to those who elected him.
“Please attend the township meeting Monday, April 14, 2014 at 7 PM to voice your concerns and demand reasonable funding to allow the Assessor to provide Grafton Township property tax payers with a highly-trained and qualified staff that will result in accurate assessments guaranteeing that no one will pay more than their fair share.”
“The Township Assessor’s budget presented to the Supervisor and Board of Trustees will be posted in its entirety on our web site (http://www.GraftonTownship.us
1 35 ILCS 200/2-30
2 35 ILCS 200/2-20
3 35 ILCS 200/9-155
4 35 ILCS 200/2-65
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Please visit the Grafton Township Assessor’s web site athttp://www.GraftonTownship.us or stop in the office at 10109 Vine Street in Huntley (just west of Route 47 behind the American Community Bank).