Mattoon Township property owners demand equal assessments in lawsuit
Commercial and industrial property owners in Mattoon Township have amended their federal lawsuit alleging that Coles County violated the 14th Amendment, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) reported recently.
The complaint seeks an injunction to force Coles County to complete all property tax assessments countywide and redo the Mattoon Township assessments for tax year 2016.
The county board passed a resolution that divided the county into four assessment districts in 2015, then set out to increase the assessed values (AV) of commercial and industrial properties, beginning with Mattoon Township, which has the largest number of parcels, the ECW said on their Illinois Leaks website.
Mattoon and Lafayette townships share a school district, which was facing financial difficulties. Only Mattoon Township was reassessed for 2016, while Lafayette Township will not be reassessed until 2018.
The ECW argue that under the 14th Amendment, the taxpayers in Mattoon Township were assessed a disproportionate amount in higher property taxes, which allegedly violated the Equal Protection Clause. The inequality would not be rectified until 2018, when Lafayette Township is scheduled for reassessment.
The court paperwork reveales that the assessed values for Mattoon Township commercial properties increased by 25 percent and industrial properties by 21 percent, or more than $10.6 million and $1.5 million, respectively. The other three districts' assessments were based on the 2015 tax year. Those districts will be reassessed one at a time, for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 tax years.
The lawsuit also alleges that Cole County violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA) on Feb. 23, 2015, by holding a special meeting to discuss the commercial and industrial properties' reassessment. It did not post the meeting 48 hours in advance and, while the board invited representatives of the taxing bodies, it failed to notify commercial and industrial property owners of the special meeting and its intent.