NORMAL — The Normal City Council on Monday approved another property tax settlement that critics say benefits student apartment building owners at the expense of other taxpayers but officials defend as a good deal.
The council signed off on a deal covering 85 properties associated with management company Young America Realty that will end costly litigation over their taxable values but means local governments will forgo property tax payments they might otherwise have received.
The taxing bodies, including the McLean County Unit 5 school district, the town, McLean County and Heartland Community College, will gain about $1 million over the eight-year deal, but they gave up a shot at about $950,000 in additional taxes they would have gotten had a state board confirmed recently hiked property assessments that prompted Young America's challenge.
Both deals are the result of owners pushing back on increased assessments in 2015, triggering disputes that moved from the county's Board of Review to the state's Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB).
Both deals involved a compromise over the value of properties whose assessments were challenged, as well as slight increases in the values of other properties likely to be reassessed at much higher values in the future. Unit 5 attorney Curt Richardson said both elements were necessary to reach any deal.
“Nothing else is currently in the works” in regards to other apartment settlements, said Richardson.
The deals differ in conditions that could void them. They have similar conditions related to the properties' square footage and enrollment at local colleges and universities, but the Young America deal lacks a provision that would void the deal if employment at State Farm significantly drops.
"(Unit 5) negotiated the agreements. So we essentially follow their lead on these items, but it looks to me like it's a very favorable deal for the taxing bodies," said Normal City Manager Mark Peterson. "Personally, I'm convinced we'd lose at PTAB. PTAB is not tolerant of local governments."
Unit 5 receives 58 percent of the tax money from the properties; the town, 11 percent; the county, 11 percent; Heartland, 8 percent; Normal Public Library, 5 percent; Normal Township, 3 percent; Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, 2 percent; Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, 1 percent; and Normal Township Road District, 1 percent.
In other business, the council:
• Thanked town employees who are keeping services running despite the bitter cold that's swept over the area this week.
"We really appreciate the hard work you're doing," said council member Kevin McCarthy.
• Approved an ordinance adjusting sexual harassment policies to include additional information required by a new state law.