By Johnny Lappe
July 14, 2011
When our property tax bills arrive in May, most of us are awestruck by the Fair Market Value that the assessor has placed on our property. Only the bravest of us have dared to venture into the world of tax appeals. Again, this a most cumbersome process with only 30 days given to complete the confusing paperwork. At the end of this process, we have learned that the system favors the assessor over the taxpayer and almost never does the property owner receive the reduction requested and generally the resident receives no reduction at all.
After losing at this initial hearing, the taxpayer has 30 days to exercise his right to appeal the county’s decision to a board in Springfield. The odds now are even more stacked against the taxpayer. The County Board of Review now joins the Township Assessor in opposing the property owner’s request.
How shocking beyond disbelief it is, when you live in Hinsdale High School District 86 (Hinsdale, Oak Brook, Clarendon Hills, Westmont, Burr Ridge, or Willowbrook) to learn that the law firm of Scariano, Himes, and Petraca will be fighting your tax reduction appeal as well. Ultimately, you realize that the Board of Education of Hinsdale High School District #86 has authorized their law firm to “intervene” in all residential property tax appeals at the state level (PTAB), where an EAV reduction in excess of $100,000 is requested. For Hinsdale High School 86, a granting of a full reduction of $100,000 EAV would cost District 86 approximately $1,700 in reduced revenue, while remembering rarely, if ever, does a resident receive anything approaching their full request. District 86 spent in excess of $10,000 fighting residents in 2009, over $18,000 in 2010 and as of May 1 of this year over $8,800.
This use of government resources against private residents is outrageous on two fronts. The most obvious indignity is that the power of government is needlessly being used to squash individual rights. The First Amendment gives every American the right to petition their government for redress of grievances. Even more spectacularly is that the High School District law firm basically does nothing (they don‘t present evidence nor do they even speak), other than observe during this proceeding. The Assessor and the Board of Review are going to win or lose regardless of the Scariano law firm’s intervention. They merely observe. Therefore, this whole process does nothing but alienate the local taxpayer, while neither student nor taxpayer is benefited.
This Monday night (July 18th), the Hinsdale District 86 Board of Education will hold their meeting at Hinsdale Central High School (main entrance) to discuss reauthorizing the District law firm to contest residents who are requesting a reduction in their EAV for 100K or more. The Board is comprised of 7 members. Currently, only board members Dianne Barrett and Richard Skoda have been concerned about this practice. It would be helpful if members of the public were at this meeting to show the Board that they are watching and don’t like what they are seeing. Any resident wishing to speak needs to sign up prior to 7:30 p.m. on the sign up sheet.
How can we be surprised when Washington and Springfield are run dysfunctionally, while we allow our local governmental entities to behave in the same way. Reform starts at home and NOW.
Let’s attend and fight excessive spending:
School Board Meeting To Reauthorize These Legal Expenses:
Monday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Hinsdale Central H.S. (main entrance building)