Coles County sued for alleged unequal property taxes
A group of business owners have filed a lawsuit against Coles County, alleging violation of their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection.
The suit contends that county officials placed a disproportionate tax on Mattoon Township's commercial and industrial property owners, resulting in them paying out at least an extra $1 million in taxes than some surrounding areas.
"Mattoon Township owners noticed the discrepancy after Coles County started doing property assessments after almost 20 years of not having done so," Erick Kaardal of the law firm of Mohrman Kaardal & Erickson’s told the East Central Reporter. “It was then that they noticed taxes have been flat in some areas and even down in others, compared to their own.”
The plaintiffs allege that the assessments haven’t been done in at least 16 years -- a violation of state law, which mandates they be performed every four years.
“My clients are looking for a court order that demands that the county do the assessments all at once and that they do so equally and fairly,” Kaardal said. “They’ve also made a claim to be reimbursed for all the added taxes they’ve paid.”
Coles County Assessor Karen Biddle said that it’s too late for her office or the county to backtrack on anything without holding up tax bills and essentially stalling payments across the board.
Such talk doesn’t sit well with Kaardal, who sees it as nothing more than an excuse.
“Our concern is that the county is more concerned with fighting instead of getting this all fixed and owning up to what has been an inequitable system for my clients," he said.
Kaardal said Coles County officials have filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the suit would constitute an instance of a plaintiff seeking to litigate against the government.