It's that time of year again: The leaves are starting to change color, pumpkin spice lattes are on the menu at your local coffee shop, and changes to assessments of properties in Kendall County are published, signaling a new property tax season in the county.
Readers will find in this week's edition of the Record and Ledger a special section listing all of the changes to individual property assessments in Kendall County for the coming tax year.
Property owners should also receive notice from the county that their assessment has changed.
Under state law, all properties, with the exception of those zoned for agricultural use, must be assessed at one-third of their fair market value.
This winter, county officials will use the new assessments in calculating how much each county property owner will owe on their annual tax bills. The county is expected to mail out the new bills late next April or in early May.
This year's taxes, to be paid in 2019, will be based on 2015, 2016 and 2017 property values.
Andy Nicoletti, the county’s chief assessing official, collects assessments from the nine townships – including a three-township assessment district – to prepare for the county’s property tax collection process.
Nicoletti said the total equalized assessed value of properties in the county has increased 5.95 percent over last year. He said the increases depend on the neighborhood and township.
"It's going to obviously range depending on what part of the county you're in – some people went up a little less than that, and some people went up a little bit more than that," he said.
The township with the highest increase in assessed value over last year is Little Rock Township, at 8.55 percent. Increases in other townships were: Big Grove, 1.34 percent; Bristol, 6.02 percent; Kendall, 2.53 percent; Lisbon-NaAuSay-Seward, 5.71 percent; Fox, 3 percent; and Oswego, 6.39 percent.
The changes are not as dramatic as they were a year or two ago, because of property sales, Nicoletti said.
"What's happening now is, the assessments are starting to catch up to the sale prices," he said. "Assessments are closer now to what [properties] are actually selling for. There isn't such a big gap."
Last year, for example, Little Rock Township saw a 12.95 percent increase.
The township assessors look at market data from the prior three tax years within a specific subdivision, Nicoletti said, and then they apply an equalization factor.
"Each neighborhood is not going to go up the same percentage – you're going to have some go up a little bit more or a little bit less, some may not go up at all," he said. "It all depends on what their sales ratio study is telling them what's going on within that neighborhood."
A sales ratio study is "a analysis of the percentage relationship of assessed value to market value," according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Assessors look at a variety of factors when they determine the value of a property, Nicoletti said.
"They're looking at garage size, fireplace, exterior construction – does it have any brick on it, is it all frame construction – those types of things, to determine what the value should be," he said.
If a property owner is not satisfied with their assessment, they should first talk it over with their township assessor, Nicoletti said. That is the person who placed the value on the property, he said.
"Discuss it with them as to how they arrived at that value," he said.
The property owner should find comparable properties in their neighborhood that were assessed for less than their property, and give those addresses to the township assessor as evidence, Nicoletti said. He said they should be similar to their own property.
"If they've got a 2,000-square-foot two-story, they're going to want to compare it to a 2,000-square-foot two-story within their subdivision," Nicoletti said. "Don't look at something that's 1,800 square feet, because obviously a smaller house is a lesser assessment. Now if they by chance happen to find something in their neighborhood that's larger than what they are and has a lesser assessment, they'll want to point those out to the assessor and use those as comparables."
Property owners can also provide information on sales of comparable properties in their neighborhood – the more recent, the better, he said.
Property owners have 30 days from the date of publication of the changes to file an appeal with the county's Board of Review. In this case, 30 days from the Sept. 13 publication date will be Oct. 15, since Oct. 13 is a Saturday, Nicoletti said.
"After Oct. 15, they won't be able to appeal – that is the final deadline," he said.
The Board of Review looks for uniformity – whether houses or properties like yours are assessed similarly – or they look at comparable sales in the neighborhood, or both, Nicoletti said.
"The assessor is also going to submit evidence to the Board of Review as to why the assessment should be where it's at," Nicoletti said. "And then they look through that data to determine what the correct assessment is."
Nicoletti recommended that a property owner submit to the Board of Review their three best examples of comparable properties.
"You've only got a 15-minute hearing," he said. "Even in the Board of Review rules, they ask that you stick to the best three."
The Board of Review will then mail a decision to the property owner, Nicoletti said.
If still unsatisfied with the result, a property owner can appeal to the state's Property Tax Appeal Board within 30 days of receiving the mailed decision by the county Board of Review, Nicoletti said.
Nicoletti said that, despite a sometimes common misconception, the Board of Review does not review tax bills or future tax bills.
"People want to appeal their actual taxes – that's not what the Board of Review is there to do," he said. "People are thinking they'll appeal their taxes for the next year, but nevertheless you can't appeal your taxes. That's not the function. The Board of Review is concerned with making sure the assessments are uniform and that they reflect a third of market value."
Last year, about 300 people appealed their assessment, a number that is down from years past, he said.
"That's going to happen when the market has turned around and it's more difficult to show that your assessment is not where it should be," Nicoletti said. "[Properties] are still selling for more than what they're assessed for, even now."
Nicoletti said the assessment appeal forms and the publication of changes will be on the county’s website at co.kendall.il.us/assessments starting Sept. 13.