Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
The Shelby County property tax Board of Review (BOR) appears to have numerous problems which may impact every property tax payer in the county. Having worked on property tax assessment issues for years and currently working on a state-wide project on the matter in which we first requested Shelby County records back in March, another point of interest raised its head during the past county board meeting.
We understand a resignation of a BOR member raised the question of how you fill the vacancy of an elected BOR member. While many will jump to the simple solution of the county board filling the vacancy by appointment, we asked how is it that the BOR became elected rather than appointed in Shelby County.
According to the County Clerk, “The Board of Review question to be elected came before the County Clerk to be put on the ballot by petitions filed by 2 local taxpayers on the final day to file to be on the November 1981 ballot in August of 1981. Rosemary Strohl of Neoga and Ina Adkins of Sigel filed the petitions based on an article I found at our local library.”
That referendum passed according to the county records at this link.
The Clerk also indicated: “This group (Shelby County Taxpayers Assn) which seemed to be formed in 1976 took their tax objections to the IL Supreme Court, prior to passing petitions to have the office of both BOR and SOA elected. The attorney hired by the Shelby County group also argued for Lake County before the IL Supreme Court”,
A review of Illinois Supreme Court Cases did turn up a 1981 Shelby County matter but it had nothing to do with the election of a board of review. Turns out, a former Supervisor of Assessments failed to comply with the law, and the entire county assessments were thrown out. It was part of a larger state-wide case that was pushed as a class action property tax objection case and the county lost.
“For the reasons stated, the judgment in cause No. 53189 is reversed insofar as it holds invalid the real estate assessments because of failure to give timely notice and is affirmed insofar as it remands the cause to the circuit court of Lake County to determine whether an appropriate subclass of plaintiffs can be shown to exist.” (RUSSELL G. SCHLENZ et al., Appellees, v. JOHN W. CASTLE, Director of Local Government Affairs, et al. (Robert Jasper, Supervisor of Assessments, et al., Appellants). — THE COUNTY OF SHELBY, Appellant, v. THE PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.)
Questions that must be answered:
- What statutory provision permits citizens to place a referendum on the ballot to make a BOR elected rather than appointed?
- What statutory provision permits a BOR to be elected in a county the size of Shelby County?
In order to properly fill an appointment to these offices, which currently have 2 vacancies, we must know if they are legally elected or should be appointed. If the election of these members was done legally, then the appointment follows the election law (10 ILCS 5/25-11). If they are supposed to be appointed, then the revenue code outlines the appointing process and political makeup of the board, (35 ILCS 200/6-15).
If the election of the BOR is not legal, what are the steps needed to correct the matter? We believe it would take a simple Declaratory Judgment action in the court to determine if they can be elected or not.
According to 35 ILCS 200/6-5, the Board of Review shall be appointed in counties under township organization with less than 3,000,000 inhabitants in which no board of review is elected under Section 6-35. Considering 6-35 would not apply to a county the size of Shelby, we are back to the magic question, under what authority did the BOR become elected? Appointed BOR members are on 2-year terms.
According to 35 ILCS 200/6-35, a BOR can only be elected in counties with a population greater than 150,000 and less than 3,000,000. Those elected under that law serve 6-year terms.
County Board minutes from 1981 include some great concerns raised by the former Shelby County State’s Attorney, Glen Wright, regarding the election of the BOR. We believe these questions were raised because there was no clear language on the matter of electing a BOR in a county the size of Shelby.
November 1981 Board Minutes: “The question on the November 3 ballot “Shall the Office of Member of the Board of Review of the County of Shelby be elective rather than appointive” passed by a vote of 1968 yes to 1129 no. “This leaves a lot of questions to be answered,” was the comment of Glen Wright. He said the three state agencies; namely the Attorney General, State Board of Elections, and the Illinois Department of Revenue, could have differences of opinion on how to implement the new procedure. Such questions as: how many members would be elected in the 1982 election if any, what length of term would each one be elected for, should the county board appoint members for the period of time from the expiration of their appointed term until their election, how many signatures are required for their filing petition, and numerous other related questions need to be answered. The problem will come to head when someone wants to file a petition with the County Clerk.”
December 1981 Board Minutes: “The elected term would be four years as other county officers. Other questions and problems will arise as a result of the office being elective rather than appointive such as: would the positions be full-time or part-time, would the board have power to extend the time for the board of review, the Illinois Department of Revenue may not pay part of their salary, could a referendum be passed to provide that the members be elected from districts, and etc.”
While we understand a select few will imply there is no problem and no reason to do anything different than what has always been done, we believe key questions must first be answered to ensure the proper law is being followed moving forward. Fortunately, the county has a great group of county board members who are more than capable of fixing what appears to be broken.
An example of making a position elected vs. appointed can be found in numerous statutes. For example, the Fire Protection District Act outlines the procedure to make appointed trustees elected, (70 ILCS 705/4a). Another example is found in the Water District Act, (70 ILCS 3705/4.2). We have not found any such language to make appointed BOR members elected rather than appointed.
By all indications, the BOR in Shelby County shall be appointed as there is no provision for a citizen to put the matter to a referendum as was done. Without such statutory authority, we do not believe those positions should be elected.
If anyone can provide any statutory authority for a county with a population of less than 22,000 inhabitants to make their BOR elected we welcome it.