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The township assessor is the only Illinois elected officeholder that has educational and certification requirements that must be completed before any election activities may be undertaken. The most common certification, that all current Lake County Assessors have, is the Certified Illinois Assessing Officer bestowed by the Illinois Property Assessment Institute.
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Every four years the township assessor is charged with conducting a general assessment of all properties within their jurisdiction. In the general assessment year, the assessor appraises or estimates "fair cash value" (the amount for which a property can be sold in the due course of business and trade, not under duress, between a willing buyer and a willing seller) of all real estate as of January 1 of the general assessment year (most recently 2019). The property is then assessed at 33.33% of the "fair cash value," as determined by the Illinois Department of Revenue's sale ratio studies for the three most recent years preceding the general assessment year. (35 ILCS 200/ 1-50, 1-55) The property assessment value is used to determine each taxpayer’s overall share of the tax burden created by units of local government who are funded by the property tax. In years other than the general assessment year, such as tax years 2020, 2021, and 2022, the township assessor is to list and assess all property which becomes taxable and which was not part of the general assessment. The assessment rolls for these years shall include all new or added buildings, structures or other improvements that were not included in the valuation of the property for the general assessment. The township assessor would also exclude the value of any buildings, structures or other improvements previously included in the general assessment that are no longer present whether or not they are removed by the property owner or destroyed or damaged by fire, flood, etc. In the instance where the improvements are damaged and not destroyed, the assessor shall determine how much the value of the property has been diminished and adjust the value accordingly.
The township assessor will rely on exterior measurements of structures when calculating the overall size of the improvements. In order to accurately collect the data used to determine the assessment, it may be necessary for the assessor or their staff to go onto the property. There may also be rare instances when it is important for an assessor to gain entry into the property to clarify certain details; this should only occur if the assessing official provides proper identification.
The cost approach indicates what it would cost to build a house today, allows for depreciation based on age and condition and adds the value of the land to the depreciated cost of all improvements. Land is always valued as if it is vacant. The market or sales comparison approach to valuation analyzes similar properties that have sold recently where both buyer and seller acted without undue pressure in negotiating the final price of the property. Adjustments are made to the selling prices of the comparable properties for amenity differences from the property being appraised. The income approach is most often used when valuing commercial/industrial property. Here, value is estimated by analyzing the net income a property generates for its owner and converting that income into a valuation indication.
Because assessors have both a market value and uniformity standard and because they are required to appraise thousands of parcels, assessors will generally use a hybrid combination of the cost and market approaches to accomplish their goals. The cost approach is used to satisfy the uniformity criteria of the statutes. This value is compared to the actual selling prices of all property within the assessment neighborhood that have occurred during the three years prior to the assessment date. With the help of computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) systems, factors are developed to adjust the cost valuations either up or down to the median level of 33.33% for a particular group of properties, as indicated by the sales transactions that qualify for analysis purposes.
It is up to individual property owners to monitor their own assessments. Taxpayers who feel they are not being assessed fairly should meet with a member of their township assessor’s office. In an informal setting, the township assessor's office staff person can explain how the assessment was determined (or changed) and the rationale behind the valuation. Prior to the meeting, taxpayers should compile relevant evidence or other material in support of their claim to the township assessor's office for review.
Township Assessors and their staff are interested in fairly assessing the properties within their jurisdiction. None of the property assessment offices (township assessor, Chief County Assessment Office, Lake County Board of Review) have any direct involvement with the computation of your tax bill. Remember that the amount of increase in a particular assessment or tax bill is not an appropriate reason for an appeal of an assessment. When discussing your assessment with the assessor's office it is recommended that you discuss the fairness of your assessments relative to others and whether the market value estimate is appropriate based upon recent transactions in your immediate area.