BLOOMINGTON — McLean County property tax bills are on their way, setting the stage for two sets of payments by local homeowners and a new round of challenges by taxpayers unhappy with their bills.
Payments are due June 3 and Sept. 3 for 2018 property taxes. They can be made in person at the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St. in Bloomington and some local banks; by phone at 877-647-7238; or online at mcleancountyil.gov.
Bills total $347.9 million on properties with a total equalized assessed value of $3.922 billion, according to the county treasurer's office — though those figures will change as some taxpayers push back on the assessed value of their properties.
For 2017 property taxes paid in 2018, $335.1 million was billed on $3.874 billion in EAV. However, $22 million in assessed value was lost as the county's Board of Review heard challenges during the following several months with an average of $20,443 lost per property being challenged.
Assessed values determine how much each individual taxpayer owes as part of local governments' property tax levies. If the EAV goes down for a taxing body, the tax rate for that levy may go up, affecting other property owners.
"The goal of the Board of Review is to give the taxpayer a place where they can come in a quasi-judicial environment ... to just focus on their property. Tell us why you think your assessment's wrong, tell us what you think it should be," said Bob Kahman, the county's supervisor of assessments, who oversees the review process. "It works very well."
That $22 million in reduced assessment valuation is the county's highest such figure since 2015, according to data provided by Kahman, following $12.2 million in 2017, $17.8 million in 2016 and $31.6 million in 2015. That year, the average drop was $34,170 per property.
In 2018, the most significant changes included Eastland Mall, which decreased in EAV from $16.9 million to $11.5 million; Walmart in Normal, from $4.2 million to $3 million; and Sam's Club, from $3.4 million to $3 million.
"It was a normal year, save Eastland," said Kahman. "If the question is, 'Why did (losses at the Board of Review) spike,' what I want to see is a couple parcels changed by $1 million or more, and that was the case this year."
Officials received appeals on 1,117 parcels of more than 68,000 billed in the county, and they took 1,095 actions to address property values. That 1,095 figure is fairly steady over the past few years after jumping to 1,642 in 2009; taxpayers then wanted savings to survive The Great Recession, said Kahman.
Property tax challenges became an issue in this spring's Normal City Council election after local taxing bodies settled with owners of apartments near Illinois State University rather than continue to fight over property values.
Some landlords escalated their disputes from the county's Board of Review to the state Property Tax Appeal Board, where they can take years to resolve. Critics have said the system encourages wealthy taxpayers to pursue "punitive litigation" that lowers their tax bills and hurts other taxpayers.
Of 24 McLean County properties before PTAB, only one is assessed at more than $580,435 — a shopping center near Veterans Parkway and Washington Street owned by Maloof Commercial Real Estate and valued at $1.36 million. Six appeals from 2016 remain active, eight from 2017 and 10 from 2018.
"We really try to resolve things locally. Even PTAB wants things resolved locally. You take something into the abstract somewhere else and look at the objective facts, and it doesn't always tell you the picture," said Kahman. "You lose important context."