Judge Michael Caldwell has issued a preliminary ruling that the City of Crystal Lake did not legally pass its tax levy in 2013 (for taxes that were paid in 2014).
At issue was whether having only three of the seven members of the city council vote for the levy was enough votes.
Judge Caldwell did not think so.
Only five of the members of the city council were in attendance the night the December, 2013, levy vote was taken.
Council members Ellen Brady-Mueller and Cathy Ferguson voted, “Yes.”
Councilmen Ralph Dawson and Jeff Thorsen voted against the measure.
Mayor Aaron Shepley broke the tie and declared that the levy was passed by a 3-2 vote.
Four votes would have been necessary for a majority of the council to have approved the levy, Caldwell seems to be saying.
The city argued that a simple majority of those in attendance was good enough because the city is a Home Rule unit.
You can read the details of the case here.
If not changed in the final order, due to be entered the day before the municipal election, April 6th, the businesses who paid their taxes under protest are due to receive a refund of $1.6 million.
That is 13.3% of their total real estate tax bills.
The suit is against all parts of the city levy, including the fire department and library.
The names of those businesses can be seen below:
St. Charles attorney Timothy Dwyer represented the tax protesters.
When asked if the city intended to appeal the verdict, City Manager Gary Mayerhofer emailed,
“As you are aware, on Tuesday, Judge Caldwell granted summary judgment for the taxpayer plaintiffs for the property tax objections and denied the City’s motion for summary judgment.
“At this point, Judge Caldwell asked that a final judgment order be prepared for entry at a status hearing on April 6, 2015.
“With this information, we are evaluating all of the City’s options with our legal counsel and we will be discussing these options with the City Council.”
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Tax protests are different from assessment appeals.
In an assessment appeal one is trying to get one’s real estate assessment reduced. The goal is to pay a smaller proportion of the total tax bill.
A tax protest is a lawsuit against one or more tax rates.
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The day after Judge Caldwell enters his final order, local elections will be held. Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley is running against write-in candidate Sascha Chadwick.