Lawsuit alleges unequal property tax hike in Coles County
Coles County taxpayers are fighting back against what they believe is a broken property tax system, filing a class-action lawsuit claiming the county violated tax laws.
A group calling itself the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County (CTOCC) filed the lawsuit after their property taxes skyrocketed by up to 400 percent in one year. Plaintiff Robb Perry talked about the lawsuit to Dan Proft on "Illinois Rising." Proft is a principal of Local Government Information Services (LGIS),which publishes this publication.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 500 business owners in Mattoon Township.
“It’s a violation of the 14th Amendment,” Perry said. “Within in our county, what they decided to do was split the county into quadrants – which is legal -- through the Department of Revenue they can do that. The problem is that they picked on just one particular part of the township – out of four or five – and decided that this year we ought to be paying higher taxes. That’s in direct violation of the 14th Amendment.”
Perry asserted that Coles County reassessed Mattoon Township, leading to massive hikes on Mattoon businesses, while others in the quadrant saw their rates drop.
The lawsuit claims the county hired an inexperienced assessor to update their property values for the first time since 2000. Perry argued that the county did not have legal authority to hire an independent assessor, and the lawsuit is seeking nearly $1 million that was collected in disproportionate taxes last year, he said.
Perry asserted that the property value increase was a way for Coles County to not only increase the property tax rate and increase property value prospects to attract businesses.
“Here is the problem: The state lost its ability to fund anything," Perry said. "The federal government has let us down. They pushed it through the state; the state’s not getting the money. It’s just a trickle-down situation, but where the real bottom lies with this is that the property that’s on the tax roll right now is not worth what they’re saying it’s worth. I’m saying that it’s devalued, and I’m saying that nobody is … breaking records and rules to get to Illinois to start a business or to live here. In fact, we’ve got a mass evacuation of the state. It’s just terrible.”
CTOCC has been working on collecting data for seven months and is waiting on action on the lawsuit, according to Perry. The group is also asking for several members of the county board to resign.
Perry is hoping that the lawsuit shines a light on a failed system.
“It’s time that everybody stands up and start looking around at what’s going on, because I’m guaranteeing you that if it’s happening here, it’s happening everywhere,” he said. “We’ve been going to meetings for about seven months … to try to ask questions because … nobody seems to want to talk about it. They’ve been silent for seven months for what they’ve done. The worst part is I don’t think they have a good honest answer to tell us why.”
Perry concluded that CTOCC is not opposed to paying taxes. The group just wants to be taxed fairly.
“We’re not saying we’re not going to pay taxes,” he said. “We understand that people have to pay taxes. We just want it to be fair and equitable, and that’s all we’re asking."
Organizations in this Story
1716 Richmond Ave
Mattoon, IL 61938-2960
PO Box 1187
Mattoon, IL 61938-1187
651 Jackson Ave
Charleston, IL 61920