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Property Tax Appeals Board, D39 and you

When Schools Fight Individual Property Owners Over Taxes

Wilmette’s Public School District 39 (D39) along with other local municipal bodies, consistently intervenes in residential property tax appeals at the Property Tax Appeal Board level (“PTAB“). The school district fights individual property owners trying to lower their property tax payments when the assessed valuation at issue results in annual property taxes of $100,000 or more.

 D39’s Superintendant, Dr. Ray Lechner refers to these properties as “high value properties.”  His School Board’s (taxpayer funded) intervention proceeds without evaluating whether the reduction sought is actually fair.  Never mind considering whether the school board has a right to be involved in the process at all. Nor is there any guarantee that this arbitrarily determined threshold amount for D39 involvement of $100,000 will not be revised in the future to include more taxpayers.

The PTAB Board is a forum of last resort for taxpayers with PTAB focused solely on “determin[ing] the correct assessment of property on appeal.”  PTAB appeals are heard by a professional staff of administrative law judges who are either qualified attorneys or property appraisal specialists. In short, PTAB members are highly qualified to adjudicate property valuation disputes.

D39 defends its actions in part by stating that, when the homeowner of a “high value property” succeeds in lowering wrongly assessed taxes, “the difference is redistributed to other tax payers.”Notably, D39 receives the same total amount of tax revenue regardless of the appeal’s outcome.

Dr. Lechner, in his May 22, 2017 statement on PTAB, justifies D39’s intervention as a way “to ensure that these cases ha[ve] a fair and reasonable outcome” and as “an important way [sic] the interest of other taxpayers are considered.”  This thinking assumes that the PTAB appeal process, led by highly qualified property appraisal specialists doing this 24/7, is not fair and, conversely, that D39, with zero qualifications in assessing property value, would be more fair.

Why Do This?

D39 expends time, valuable resources and taxpayer dollars by hiring outside counsel to intervene in these appeals despite the fact the PTAB Board, also a taxpayer-funded body, has already been organized and funded to handle the appeals.  D39’s actions result in double the taxpayer resources spent on such appeals.  Adding the other intervening municipal bodies into the mix, multiple layers of taxpayer money are squandered to usurp the taxpayer-funded PTAB‘s job.

In effect, D39, along with the other municipal bodies, has decided to play Robin Hood by doing everything possible to assure that the owners of “high value properties” are not successful with their appeal and are forced to pay whatever amount of tax has been assessed to them (regardless of the possibility it may be unfair or mistaken).  Through these interventions, D39 also derides the ability of the PTAB Board to fulfill its duties.

D39 should cease the practice of intervening in ALL residential property tax appeals, regardless of value, and leave the evaluation of all PTAB residential property tax appeals to the PTAB Board as it is the most qualified party to adjudicate such matters.