Coles Co. assessor talks tax issue

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CHARLESTON, Ill. (WAND)- Business owners in Mattoon Township say they were surprised when they received their new property tax bills late last year.

“I knew there was a re-assessment coming, but I didn’t realize the numbers would be as bold as they were,” said businessman Robb Perry. “The increases went anywhere from 20 to 300 percent.”

County leaders had begun a multi-year reassessment of commercial properties, starting with Mattoon township in 2016 and moving to other parts of the county in following years, in hopes of managing costs, according to supervisor of assessors Karen Biddle.

“We’re starting to see commercial and industrial sales that are very different from what we used to have them valued at,” Biddle said. “Ultimately, it’s other classes of property that have to make up the difference.”

Biddle, who took office about two years ago, said the county had gone sixteen years without reassessing commercial properties, although state law requires those reassessments every four years.

“I don’t really have a good answer for (why reassessments weren’t done),” Biddle said. “It should get done. I’m not saying it necessarily does get done. I can’t speak for other jurisdictions, but I don’t know if this is an unusual situation statewide or not.”

 Perry and others argue that taxing Mattoon Township businesses based on new assessments before reassessing other county businesses is unfair and potentially unconstitutional, an argument they make in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.

“You have one township shouldering a greater tax burden … to me, that’s unfair,” Perry said.

“There was absolutely no malice involved in that,” Biddle said. “There was no intent of being inequitable. It was simply a matter of ‘someone had to be year number one, someone had to be year number two.’”

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