By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
For the first time in many years, all 23 townships in Adams County have been awarded multipliers of 1.
That's good news for taxpayers, because this could result in stable tax bills next year -- unless local governmental bodies decide to increase their levies.
But if taxing bodies take steps to keep tax rates at pretty much the same level, "there really shouldn't be much difference" in property tax bills paid by most homeowners next year, said Georgene Zimmerman, the county's supervisor of assessments.
The exception would involve properties where something happened to raise or lower the property's assessment. "Maybe they tore something down or built something new, or they split or combined property. It could be anything," Zimmerman said.
Her office recently sent out 10,494 notices to property owners whose assessments have changed during the past year. Zimmerman said most of those notices involved owners of farmland. In keeping with a long-standing trend, farmland assessments were bumped up by 10 percent countywide in the past year.
"That's pretty common, and we already know farmland is going to go up 10 percent for 2014," Zimmerman said. "That's set by the Department of Revenue with help from the University of Illinois. They're taking in a formula baed on crop prices, fertilizer prices, gas prices, interest rates, things like that."
If a property owner did not receive a notice, there should be no change in their property's assessment, Zimmerman said. And a multiplier of 1 will trigger no further rise.
Multipliers -- also known as "equalization factors" -- are issued each year as part of a statewide effort to make sure all properties in Illinois are assessed equally at 33.33 percent of their market value.
Assessors in each township initially come forward with their own assessment reports for all properties in the townships, then Zimmerman reviews those reports and applies township multipliers as she deems necessary. These decisions are based on the average sale prices of properties over a three-year period -- in this case the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Two years ago, 22 of the county's 23 townships were given multipliers higher than 1. In each of those townships, Zimmerman felt properties were underassessed and had to be boosted to the proper level by the equalization factor.
Last year, only two townships were given multipliers higher than 1 -- Quincy Township, which was assigned a multiplier of 1.0006, and Melrose Township, which was given a multiplier of 1.0054.
This year, all townships were given a multiplier of 1, which means Zimmerman felt properties in every township were assessed overall at the proper level.
Zimmerman said she believes this is the first time that's happened since she became supervisor of assessments in 1989 and started assigning multipliers on a township-by-township basis. Prior to her arrival, a countywide multiplier was issued in Adams County.
Zimmerman said the widespread issuance of 1 multipliers indicates assessments are catching up to local home-sale prices.
"Prices have gone down some, and since we're looking at the past three years, things have just kind of caught up and leveled off," she said.
While this may be good news for taxpayers, it might not be so good for taxing bodies accustomed to seeing regular increases in revenue even when tax rates have stayed pretty much unchanged.
"They're probably not going to be so happy," Zimmerman said, noting how taxing bodies likely won't see much increase in revenue unless they decide to raise their levies.
"The county's assessments overall still went up a little bit because we have new construction here and there -- plus the farmland went up 10 percent," Zimmerman said. But for the most part, the county's equalized assessed valuation is not likely to see a big jump.
Zimmerman said Adams County property owners have until Aug. 12 to file written challenges to their 2013 assessments. All complaints will go before the three-member Board of Review, which consists of Gene Foster, John Johnson and Ron Gaus.
Anyone challenging an assessment must fill out a form available at Zimmerman's office in the Adams County Courthouse.
Property owners will need to submit evidence of why they feel their property is not assessed correctly. Zimmerman said the easiest way to do this is to provide an appraisal or proof of a recent sale showing the property's sale price is apparently less than the assessment. Owners also can submit information on recent sale prices of comparable properties.
"The burden of proof is on them," Zimmerman said.
The Board of Review may act directly on a complaint, or it may schedule an appointment to review the matter with the property owner.