Grafton Township Assessor Al Zielinski Not Happy with Supervisor of Assessments

An email from Grafton Township Assessor Al Zielinski:

Appealing your 2014 taxes and your 2015 assessments

Personally and via my presentations, I’ve explained and cautioned about the assessment games played at the county level.

However, I never imagined to what level, Bob Ross, the Chief County Assessment Officer, could/would sink.

Earlier this month, my Deputies conveyed he mentioned he was going to roll back some neighborhoods to previous levels because of political pressure.

I thought it was a misunderstanding.

But, as indicated when the county published Grafton’s assessments this past Saturday, it truly happened.

As proof, the county’s Excel file is attached.

Below is one example: Cheswick Place.

18-14-427-011
MCKNIGHT, BRYAN A COURTNEY A
0
0
14272
85448
0
99720

Our office’s total assessment was $113,449 (down roughly $6,000 from last year).

That valuation is accurate, fair and representative of the 5/2011 purchase price of $360,000 as well as other property sales in Cheswick and competing neighborhoods.

Nonetheless, as shown above, Bob Ross reduced the assessment to $99,720: a market value of under $300,000.

As proven below, that’s $55,000 below the median sales price of the Cheswick properties that sold in 2014 and the first 6 months of 2015.

Our assessment put the property value at a much more accurate $340,350.


Obviously, there’s no justification for the unique subdivision reduction.

If Bob Ross had problems with Grafton’s 2014 assessments, that was the year to correct them, not retroactively.

Further, it’s a blatant violation of uniformity because only specific neighborhoods were reduced while everyone else’s assessments in the township stood.

I’m infuriated but, because I don’t own property in Grafton Township, my options are limited.

I will pursue whatever avenues I have via the State’s Attorney for malfeasance and the Department of Revenue for whatever.

But, my guess is, unless someone sues, this will be allowed to stand.

Below are my recommendations.

1. Appeal your 2014 property taxes before the 75-day window expires.

Per the McHenry County Treasurer’s site: “Property taxes: The last day to pay property taxes is Friday October 23rd, 2015.”
Emilie Kaplan at Sneckenberg Thompson & Brody remains my strong recommendation as counsel.

2. Appeal your 2015 assessments.

Never thought I’d say that while I was in office but never thought I’d see what just happened.
Our office will not be disputing appeals this year unless the county’s transgression is reversed.
Use equity as your basis because the Chief County Assessment Officer’s action made it a slam dunk.

3. Please tell everyone you know in Grafton Township especially your neighbors.

I took office to clean-up a crooked process but this is unfathomable.

Please let me know how I can help.

As a favor, if you forward this e-mail as I hope you will, please remove my personal e-mail to protect me from spammers.

Anyone can and should contact me at the office: [email protected]


Comments

Grafton Township Assessor Al Zielinski Not Happy with Supervisor of Assessments — 31 Comments

  1. Wow politics in assessments, who would of guessed.

    Local taxes should be in the form of income taxes, not subjective property taxes.

    Income pays the bills, property has turned into a pit for income.

  2. Government in the State of Illinois is out of control at every level.

    The only way out of this mess is to MOVE out of it, and that’s what thousands of ex-residents have already done.

    The Great Exodus out of Illinois is far from over ….

  3. Its too late to appeal my 2014 assessment.

    The fact my 2015 assessment valuation dropped 48.56% tells me just how bad the Assessor’s office was in correctly adjusting (Equalization – Market Value) to what the valuation truly should have been.

    I literally want to see your predecessor investigated / taken to task by the McHenry County State’s Attorney for what appears to be criminal negligence.

  4. Mr. Zielinski, you just posted a resident’s PIN number with his address.

    I thought you stated that was a privacy and public safety issue, hence denying the FOI.

    You just put that family in danger.

    Shame on you.

  5. No, our office did not.

    We are complying with a court order.

    God forbid there’s blood on anyone’s hands but, if there is, it won’t be ours.

  6. So this guy bought in 2011 at $360K.

    Hasn’t the Equalized Assessed Value in McHenry County dropped like 20% since 2011 until now?

    Let me check.

    Yup, it sure did.

    I just checked the County Clerk’s website:

    https://www.co.mchenry.il.us/county-government/departments-a-i/county-clerk/taxes

    A quick glance at that website shows that the total assessed value of McHenry County dropped from $8.8 billion in 2011 to $6.9 billion in 2014.

    That is a 21.6% reduction in assessed value between when he bought and now.

    However, you are saying that this guy’s house has defied the market and actually maintained his value when the rest of the entire McHenry County has decreased 21.6%?

    Seems to me you are picking on this poor guy.

    Unless his house is on a 1.5 acre plot of land on the lake in Turnberry, I doubt it is the one house in the county that has actually maintained its value.

    Any rational person would see that his house is valued right were it is supposed to be.

    Like everyone else in my neighborhood sees it and I am sure it is the same in this guy’s neighborhood and others, thank god there is a reasonable person double checking your work.

    Not to mention, it is absolutely despicable that you would target this poor guy in this manner.

    Where is your professionalism and class?

    Wow, your elected term needs to end before someone gets hurt or killed over your nonsensical ranting.

  7. Mr. Zielinski knows not of what he speaks.

    Through his many meetings throughout Grafton Township, he has proven that time after time.

    Mr. Ross does NOT determine market valuations or assessment levels.

    The local township assessor makes the fair market valuation determination and applies the state revenue code 1/3 to determine assessed valuation.

    The only change that can be made thereafter (barring a legitimate mistake) is by the County Board of Review, not Mr. Ross.

    Every property owner has the opportunity to appeal the assessor’s valuation, but they have to follow the rules.

    The McHenry County Board of Review has heard many thousands of cases in the past several years.

    If the B of R grants a reduction, Mr. Ross is required to follow their direction.

  8. It’s amusing…he’s defied instruction from every public official, but someone overrules him, and he pouts like a two year old.

  9. This whole thing is like a bad joke!

    Houses in the same neighborhood with an extra 1,000 square feet valued less than other houses.

    And others that are comparable have $80k swings in value.

    The assessor clearly can’t do his job and now the county is trying to “fix” certain neighborhoods?!

    STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH OUR MONEY!!

  10. I’m not a fancy, schmancy CIAO, but an assessed value of $299,100 is just about right for 18-14-427-011.

    There were six sales in the Chestwick Place neighborhood between 7/1/2014 and 6/30/2015, the one-year band around the assessment date of 1/1/2015.

    The subject property (18-14-427-011) is a 3,202 square foot home. We can throw out the sales of the following properties as comps for the reasons listed:

    * 18-14-477-010 (significantly bigger than subject),
    * 18-14-426-014 (significantly smaller than subject),
    * 18-14-430-003 (not a market sale) and
    * 18-14-426-010 (per MLS listing it’s a “FORMER BUILDER’S SHOWCASE MODEL HOME [that] BOASTS EVERY CONCEIVABLE UPGRADE”).

    That leaves us the sales of 18-14-428-013 ($98.35 psf) and 18-14-426-004 ($89.31 psf).

    The average of these two comps gives an indicated value for the subject of $93.83 per square foot, or $300,449.

    Bob Ross is right.

    Zielinski is wrong.

    More importantly, if this is the one example Zielinski cherry-picked to show how unfairly Bob Ross is treating him, how screwed up are the rest of Zielinski’s assessments???

  11. The example provided above is just that: a single example.

    There’s no need to compare it to the township as a whole because we use homogeneous neighborhoods to get a much more accurate value picture. Quotes from the article prove that.

    “Our office’s total assessment was $113,449 (down roughly $6,000 from last year).”

    “… as well as other property sales in Cheswick and competing neighborhoods.”

    “As proven below, that’s $55,000 below the median sales price of the Cheswick properties that sold in 2014 and the first 6 months of 2015.” (The MLS sales graphic showing a median sales value of $355,000 for Cheswick sales didn’t make it into the article.)

    “Our assessment put the property value at a much more accurate $340,350.”

    But the point is not an isolated instance.
    The question is why the favoritism shown one subdivision of less than 125 parcels in a township of 21,000+ parcels?

    What’s fair for one should be fair for all.

  12. In the midst of his pending lawsuit and upcoming deposition for failure to comply with a simple FOI request, Al Zielinski is clearly speaking something less than the truth when he claims his deputies reports were a “misunderstanding”.

    He is acutely aware of the entire situation.

    And one wonders why he can’t attend meetings all by himself like a big boy instead of sending his deputies.

    For what it’s worth Mr. Zielinski is not a Grafton Township homeowner but, cleverly, his wife is.

    Lakes of Turnberry.

    The bottom line here is Mr. Zielinski ignored instruction and common sense by re-assessing in a non-general year and is paying the price for that mistake.

    This is political ONLY in the sense that a group of concerned, honest, upstanding taxpayers have made their grievances known to everyone who will listen, every one of which has disagreed with Al’s methods.

    Unfortunately, not one can rectify this situation and we just get to wait out his miserable term in office, congratulations voters of Grafton Township.

    This use of that PIN in this post is one of the most outrageous acts of ax-grinding petulance I have ever seen.

    Mr. Zielinski’s “defense” of not turning over data for the FOI request was that PINs are private.

    He even stooped so low as to bring in domestic abuse victims as a reason.

    But once the court so orders, now it’s in his heart of hearts to instantly broadcast the names of two individuals to anyone who reads this blog.

    I wonder who it is he’s being sued by anyway.

    Zielinski is a disgrace to public office.

  13. Al, is Bryan the one who Is suing as a result of the FOIA request.

    Just curious why you used his home as the one example out of the 125 in Cheswick like you mentioned above.

  14. Mr Zielinski

    You have just taken the professionalism from your office.

    You have just stated your office will not be disputing appeals.

    If I read this right , I for one accept your resignation.

  15. Ummm. JT anyone can get a PIN. You just need an address.

    With the PIN you can the names.

    So I can get the same exact information on my own if I wanted it.

    You are blowing this waaayy out of per portion.

    I was at the meeting tonight and when Brian said his wife is afraid for her life and he cancelled business trips to protect his family…

  16. There are suspicions that Al made political promises during his original campaign to select neighborhoods that he would lower their taxes if he was elected.

    That is the reason why he re-assessed the entire township when he wasn’t supposed to in his first year in office which was in fact a non-general assessment year in the first place.

    Over the course of his tenure, other small tidbits of information have surfaced to support that claim like the fact that was reported in a Grafton township meeting last year that Al hand picked several neighborhoods himself to personally complete their assessments.

    Of the neighborhoods he personally did the assessments for was his own in Turnberry.

    Now, in this email, he documented promises to the same neighbors and friends, whom he personally calculated their assessment values in the first place, that he won’t dispute their appeals this year if they appeal!

    So here are the facts:

    You completed your neighbor’s assessments this year and last year. Last year, the assessments were way lower than what they should have been and people started to questions these numbers.

    This year you come in and re-assess all these parcels again but instead of making the assessment obviously low, you hike their assessment back up to what they should have been in the first place to avoid any further questions on the blatantly low assessments.

    Then on the day your neighbors get their assessment letters you send this email to calm their anger by essentially promising them an appeal win.

    Oh forgot to mention, that appeal win will lock in your neighbor’s assessments for the next four years.

    You still keep your political promise, but you fix your blatant reduction last year so your actions aren’t so blatantly obvious and in the meantime, you make this poor guy out as the scapegoat.

    In my mind, this is way worse than any changes the chief county assessor made.

    If this promise isn’t a blatant violation of all ethical standards set by Illinois government, then I don’t know what is.

    This man complains about the system, but the system is not broken, he is.

    This is corruption at its best.

    If there is any justice left in Illinois, this man will be removed from office immediately before his personal favors cause this township to go bankrupt.

  17. If any assessor is engaging in illegal activity, why wouldn’t the McHenry County State’s attorney’s office prosecute them.

    In the past 10 years, I see a lot of mud slinging and yet no action.

    Is it possible, that assessments taken up last year were to address some serious deficiencies in the previous assessor’s assessments?

    I can tell you, I’ve not engaged anyone politically locally other than voting in each election.

    Only in the past 5 days, have I been pursuing research on why my assessment was 48.56% less than last years (and the fact I am by Dean Foods, have tremendous semi-truck traffic on my residential street, and increasing train traffic with only one home selling for more than 100k in a 4 block radius in the past 4 years plus with the economic downturn, my assessment should have dropped years ago).

    I find the present assessor’s actions to be refreshingly open (and he is quick to answer questions out in the open which anyone engaging in untoward activity would avoid).

    I find the anonymous mud-slinging by some to be disconcerting.

    Instead of personalizing this by attacking one’s character, why not gather your evidence and present that evidence to those who can affect change.

    Much of what I am reading seems like insider political mudraking which solves nothing and makes those of us not involved in politics loathe to even read some of these comments (let alone get involved in affecting change).

    I literally can’t keep score of those people who insist on anonymously settling scores via internet proxy.

    Just sayin’

  18. Steinar, first off, when dealing with this guy, be very careful.

    He’s the best fact fabricator you will ever meet.

    Second, you’ve been given a huge Christmas gift here so I wouldn’t push too hard.

    If your statement is correct above, according to Al Zielinski, your Fair Market Value went from $158,828 in 2014 (which by the way, Al Zielinski increased for you last year not his predecessor) to now $77,126 (48.56% less than last year)?

    If that is true, this is just another example of incompetence in the assessor office.

    After reading this statement above: “only one home selling for more than 100K in a 4 block radius in the past 4 years,” I did a quick search.

    Even if you restated it to say “only one home selling for more than 100K in a 4 HOUSE radius in the past 4 years,” it would be incorrect.

    There are two houses within two properties of you that sold for more than $100K including your direct neighbor to the west who bought that house for $140,000 last year and the person two properties behind you for $119,000 last May.

    A quick search of Zillow shows there were at least 20 houses around Dean Foods that sold for more than $100,000 in the last four years including at least 6 that were over sold for over $200,000.

    Stop trying to defend this man.

    He’s ruined countless lives throughout this township and has shown no remorse in doing so.

    Instead he, who is an elected official mind you, publicly attacks innocent residents on blog sites.

    That is the type of man he is.

    He’s not some savior of assessments like you are trying to make him out to be.

  19. Al messed up BIG TIME!!!!

    We have many houses in our neighborhood that randomly dropped by over $100,000 for no reason. T

    his entire list is flawed!

  20. So now you see the county assessor is really in charge …why do we need a township assessor at all?

  21. Last night at the Grafton Township meeting Al was asked why he chose to single out a resident and post their personal information to a public blog in a negative manner.

    His response was that this email was only intended to be disseminated to his direct neighbors via email and he had no idea how it appeared on the McHenry Country Blog.

    Given Al’s intention with this email, the instructions are not to be interpreted uniformly to all residents of Grafton.

    Al only recommends that his direct neighbors file a slam dunk appeal that will defeat the assessments he just published.

    Additionally, given Al’s verbal confirmation in front of many residents yesterday that this email was for his neighbors only, and not the public, I can only assume that whomever spread it added the request, ‘As a favor, if you forward this e-mail as I hope you will’.

    Please in the future if you receive and e-mail, do not fabricate lines at the end of the e-mail to make it appear as though Al wanted you to share it.

    For anyone that doubts Al’s ethics, I am sure he will be more than happy to show you the original email as sent to prove he never intended that it go public as he indicated to the residents he so thoughtfully serves.

  22. Where are you today Al?

    How did your Executive session go with the Township’s lawyer?

    What was all the screaming in that closed room about?

    How did your magnificent work get a vote of no confidence from the Trustees?

    How did this blog get your original email?

    Was it forwarded by a neighbor, or did you send it, good sir?

    Because I know the answer.

    Keep hiding and think of ways to cover up your mistakes some more.

    Mr. Andersen I can assure you I am not an anonymous poster, I am front and center whenever and wherever I can be.

    This have been my first two posts ever on any county website.

    Feel free to join us at the next Grafton Township meeting and see what falls out of the clown car next month.

    It’s must-see theater.

    Mud-slinging and name-calling on blogs is what it apparently is reduced to, courtesy of Mr. Zielinski’s calculated reference to the Cheswick resident suing him.

    Shocking, random pull from the data.

  23. “Joe”: He’s the best fact fabricator you will ever meet.

    Steinar: again, making anonymous statments on a blog doesn’t make that so. I am not defending him either, I am noting a decidedly nasty tone amongst those who throw mud.

    “Joe”: Second, you’ve been given a huge Christmas gift here so I wouldn’t push too hard.

    Steinar: I’m not pushing anything hard. And it isn’t a Christmas Gift. The VA is presently Appraising my home in the coming month (after 2 brokers reviews of comps done by Wells Fargo AND a broker I know. Both placed the house below $100k. So I am not looking a gifthorse in the mouth. I am finally getting a true valuation.

    “Joe”: If your statement is correct above, according to Al Zielinski, your Fair Market Value went from $158,828 in 2014 (which by the way, Al Zielinski increased for you last year not his predecessor) to now $77,126 (48.56% less than last year)?

    Steinar: My statement was pulled off of my assessment received last Saturday, why wouldn’t my statement be correct? Why would I post openly with my full name and also a link to my blog with incorrect information for others to flam-be?

    “Joe”: If that is true, this is just another example of incompetence in the assessor office. After reading this statement above: “only one home selling for more than 100K in a 4 block radius in the past 4 years,” I did a quick search. Even if you restated it to say “only one home selling for more than 100K in a 4 HOUSE radius in the past 4 years,” it would be incorrect. There are two houses within two properties of you that sold for more than $100K including your direct neighbor to the west who bought that house for $140,000 last year and the person two properties behind you for $119,000 last May.

    Steinar: We are talking “comps” which involves moe than just a house on a property. The home to the immediate west of me was built in 2006 (and sold for $240k originally I believe and was foreclosed by BofA, then purchased for $140k) and is substantially a different type of home altogether (regarding sq. footage, age…. a different “comp altogether). The 2 properties on Dean street SHOULD be handled as TWO properties. The one to the North of it sold for $81,500 (a direct comp). The one to the east of me sold 2 years ago for $90k (and it has more bathrooms and more sq. footage…. another direct comp if you will as it is also an older 2 story farmhouse). The one across from me went up for sale for $115k and was pulled off the market a month later (unsellable due to liens and possible foreclosure). 11703 Mill St went for $45k (and it is also larger than my home and is an older 2 story. So that covers the immediate block around me.

    Extending out, east of there, there is no truck traffic of any significance (just the train affecting Church St.) On Myrtle St, 2 homes went for less than $100 k 2 years ago (11208 S Myrtle St went for $60k, 11213 S Myrtle St. went for 67,500, 11103 S Church St went for $80k, and 4 others went for 99k or less.

    “Joe”: A quick search of Zillow shows there were at least 20 houses around Dean Foods that sold for more than $100,000 in the last four years including at least 6 that were over sold for over $200,000.

    Steinar: Which one is a “direct comp”? I apologize, I see two (both on Grove). My mistake. I’d be interested in which of the six that sold for over $200k were a direct comp. You see (and I will restate this so I am no longer in error in your eyes)… the MAJORITY of homes like mine in the FOUR block radius (including those with more bathrooms and square footage and larger rooms (I have 9 foot ceilings, but very small rooms that make for a VERY cramped living quarters) with a large bedroom upstairs with no bathroom) sold for less than $100k. These are facts, not fiction (I know how to use Trulia and Zillow search also).

    “Joe”: Stop trying to defend this man. He’s ruined countless lives throughout this township and has shown no remorse in doing so.

    Steinar: I am NOT defending him. I am saying if he is the heathen you claim he is… then reveal who you are and present evidence or go to the governing bodies who can pursue this elected official legally.

    “Joe”: Instead he, who is an elected official mind you, publicly attacks innocent residents on blog sites.
    That is the type of man he is. He’s not some savior of assessments like you are trying to make him out to be.

    Steinar: I see him as yet another elected official (and I have no skin in this game) who is trying to do the job he was elected for. I have not seen him attack innocent residents on blog sites (and just how can you prove that without verification that some guy isn’t just posting as him). You can’t, unless he admits to doing so in the public arena. I am also not naive (and realize that he does occasionally post in a couple of these blogs). However, so far… I have seen many other anonymous people who just eviscerate people on these blogs (and show themselves to be as self indulgent mud rakers as those they attack as evil people. We have a system of laws. If you have an axe to grind, take it to the authorities. As for my assessment, it is spot on and when I get my VA appraisal, I will be sure to post the results on this blog (and I have zero doubt it will also be less than $100k). I trust my broker (who knowing my principle is $215k…. is just heart broken for us that it looks like we won’t even be able to do a short sale. She told us the truth. The assessment is the tale of the tape.

  24. And by the way, as my VA 50% Service Related Disability was just approved (and it should increase to 100% soon after as I was just awarded SSDI 3 weeks ago)…..I will not be paying a tax on this property soon (my family and I owe many thanks for that blessing).

    So….. please note that I was not worried about my taxes for next year and after that (and again, have no skin in this game).

    I just felt it important to acknowledge the huge valuation drop off and to say it was about time.

  25. Al had until Tuesday night to upload this on to the site how come it is not done yet. Who do we call?

  26. Hey, YOU guys elected him, right?

    How can anyone who met or listened to Al Zielinski during his campaign possibly claim to be surprised by any of this?

  27. Zielinski raised my assessed value 36% in one year!

    Prior to him taking office I went down to the Grafton Township Assesors office and the people I worked with were very helpful in assisting with my assessment appeal in 2012. When I received my current assessment I called seeking assistance, in which I was told, “unfortunately we are instructed, by Mr. Zielinski not to assist citizens with their appeal as it’s a conflict of interest, he is trying to run the township like a profitable business.”

    I then personally called and spoke to Zielinski and he stated my assessed value increased 36% because “You had a partial the past two years.” Which I replied, you’re right, I purchased a foreclosure and there was significant damage to the property, prior to your arrival I worked with the Assessor’s office and they lowered my assessed value do to the significant damage. I have been fixing/replacing the damage for two years but continue to find additional damage to my property.”

    Zielinski’s response verbatim, “You’ve had 2 years to fix the damage, that’s plenty of time, I’m not lowering your assessed value, deal with it!” My response, “Do you even know how much a new window costs, close to $800, and I need 22 of them as they’re all leaking. This is just one major project I need to complete on this home.” Zielinski then laughed at me and said, “I don’t care, I’m not lowering your assessed value!” and hung up on me.

    Then he emails me this:

    Maintenance is not considering in assessments.
    Below is the citation from the tax code.

    35 ILCS 200/10-20. Repairs and maintenance of residential property.
    Maintenance and repairs to residential property owned and used exclusively for a residential purpose shall not increase the assessed valuation of the property. For purposes of this Section, work shall be deemed repair and maintenance when it (1) does not increase the square footage of improvements and does not materially alter the existing character and condition of the structure but is limited to work performed to prolong the life of the existing improvements or to keep the existing improvements in a well maintained condition; and (2) employs materials, such as those used for roofing or siding, whose value is not greater than the replacement value of the materials being replaced. Maintenance and repairs, as those terms are used in this Section, to property that enhance the overall exterior and interior appearance and quality of a residence by restoring it from a state of disrepair to a standard state of repair do not
    “materially alter the existing character and condition” of the residence.

    So the ‘code’ he sent me talks to maintenance to a home and that maintenance to a home should not increase a properties value. So zielinski’s reasoning, ‘Maintenance is not considering in assessments’, completely contradicts his reasoning for increasing my assessed value by 36% in on year!
    Did you all know he owns an appraisal company and used this to have his wife’s assessed value lowered significantly.

    http://www.fastappraisals.net/alan_zielinski.html

    Oh and Steinar Anderson – you’re completely clueless. Put a sock in your pie hole and get your facts straight before you start spouting off at the mouth.

  28. Concerned Citizen of Grafton…

    I’m sorry to hear of the assessment issues with your home.

    Did the Board of Review help at all?

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