D219 Hires Law Firm to Fight Owners Seeking Property Tax Reduction

Administrators say actual increase in taxes will be lower.

The Niles Township High School District 219 school board agreed Monday night to continue working with other school districts and other taxing bodies in Niles Township to fight efforts from property owners to get refunds on their property taxes.

The school board agreed to authorize the law firm Franczek Radelet P.C. to act on behalf of the Niles Township Property Tax Appeals Cooperative in challenging appeals filed for assessment years 2010-11 before the Cook County Board of Review, and to pay the cooperative more than $35,000 for work done on behalf of the district so far.

That includes fighting property tax appeals filed by dozens of property owners. While some are individual homeowners, most are commercial properties, and several would cost the district more than $100,000 if they are successful.


Both actions were on the district’s consent agenda, which was approved without discussion. In the background materials provided to school board members, Superintendent Nanciann Gatta wrote, “I believe the effort of the Niles Township Property Tax Appeals Cooperative is saving the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax refunds that would have otherwise been granted.”

District 219 includes and high schools.

The refunds would come if the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board agreed with the property owners that their properties are not worth as much as the Cook County Assessor said they were. Because appeals are not granted until after the tax extension has been decided and property tax bills have been sent out, the money that would have to be refunded would come out of tax revenue the district was counting on getting, and the district would have no way to make that shortfall up.

Some of the largest possible losses could have come with the proposed reassessment of the Inland Shops at Orchard Place, 9601 N. Skokie Blvd. in Skokie. The shopping center’s owners wanted a more than $2.4 million reduction in its assessed value. That would cost District 219 $145,764. It also would cost  Skokie Elementary District 68 $133,146, and the Skokie Park District and Public Library District each more than $25,856.

Owners of the W.W. Grainger property at 5959 W. Howard in Niles are seeking to reduce their assessment by $2.1 million; that would cost District 219 $128,197. It would also cost Fairview South Elementary District 72 $96,239, according to the reports presented to the school board.

h m January 17, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Interesting how a company can do work and bill District 219 without getting prior Board Approval. This is like saying, the staff can offer a person a position for $100,000 per year, let them start working and then 2 months later actually hire them and then pay them for the back work tht they did.
S H January 17, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I can't believe the school board waste money on lawyers to fight the people who are desperate to stay in their homes, instead of trying to lower cost especially with the unions always constant pay raises. Do we forget our taxes went up based on appreciation? Why now have they not gone down. Where is the outcry people. No wonder people are fighting their taxes...
Deadcatbounce January 17, 2012 at 11:11 PM
When you think of it, the whole situation is absurd; the district using our tax money to fight us, the hand that's feeding them. The lawyers make out like bandits with our tax money. These lawyers are just a bunch of bottomfeeders as far as I am concerned. We are just rearranging deckchairs on the titanic, sooner or later taxpayers will wake up when they can't afford their homes or businesses.
David Zornig January 17, 2012 at 11:36 PM
This is beyond absurd. How does the School District even have any legal standing, on any issues between the County and other property owners? How can they even have any say in the matter? Their job is to work with whats given to them, AFTER the County collects it. Do none of those board members own homes here? Properties are being taxed on values they haven't had in 5 years? They need to tighten their budgets like everyone else. Wasting money on lawyers is not part of that.
Ira Dubin January 17, 2012 at 11:50 PM
It is time to clean house. This whole board needs to be voted out and replaced. They continue to use the taxpayer money on ridiculous things and then want us to pay for their mistakes (see Neil Codell deal).
Lizzy T January 19, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I can't believe elected officials are hiring lawyers to fight the very taxpayers they are supposed to represent! How long have these people been on the board to be so disconnected with the people? To paraphrase Marcellus in Shakespeare's Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of District 219". This is appalling!
Donald India January 19, 2012 at 05:03 PM
SD219 is trying to influence the unfair reassessment of large retail and industrial real estate. If reassessed, these funds are not made up and forever lost. This reduces the fund balances to both the HS and elementary school districts as well as other public entities such as villages, park districts, libraries, etc. If Grainger EAV is reduced $2 million, Fairview SD67 and Niles also lose revenue. If Inland EAV is reduced $2 million, Old Orchard SD68, Skokie and the Skokie Park District and Library also lose revenue. If Kraft and Avon reduce their EAV, then SD67 also loses revenue. While SD219 may have a large reserve and fund balance many other public entities do not and would be adversely affected by a loss of EAV and tax revenue to their district. . Maybe this should have had discussion and not be routinely approved on a consent agenda to allow the public to know the benefit of this expenditure.
Deadcatbounce January 19, 2012 at 06:36 PM
"unfair reassessment ", Well Donald, why is the reassessment unfair? Commercial property owners have a right to appeal their assessment, the same as you and me. Have you ever appealed your assessment? I guess if your appeal is approved that would be a "fair reassessment". Why doesn't the park district, schools, library try spending less and become more fiscally responsible. When my income is cut, I don't hire a lawyer and sue my employer because it was "unfairly reassessed"
David Zornig January 19, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Mr. India, why do you characterize a reassessment as "unfair", simply because it is on a large sized or industrial property? If the school board can't learn to work with what it fairly receives from the county, after legal tax appeals are exhausted by land owners, than more realistic board members need to be put in their place. The board shouldn't get to decide, or be able to sue to influence who gets to successfully appeal taxes on their own property or not. The boards action simply proves that tax money already being collected, is being mismanaged. It shouldn't have been a "discussion", routinely approved, or even an option to the board. Hopefully legislation can be drafted to limit any school board's similar power in the future. The public will never see a benefit of that expenditure, because there is none. Adversely affected by a loss of tax revenue? Welcome to the real world.
Deadcatbounce January 19, 2012 at 08:04 PM
According to Mr. India … “Maybe this should have had discussion and not be routinely approved on a consent agenda to allow the public to know the benefit of this expenditure.” In other words Mr India wants the school board and district administration to explain to the public that lawyering up every time one of these property owners tries to pay less, benefits the district because this expenditure may payoff in stopping or curtailing the so called “unfair reassessment”. Is that the narrative Mr India?
Donald India January 19, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Most likely the properties will be reassessed. My point was that there is no one representing the tax authorities. The funds to rebate taxes back to the reassessed property owner come directly from the school district (village, library, park district, ...) and are never recouped. If the county was doing their job correctly, the assessement would not have to be appealed. School districts relie on revenue from real estate by a simple formula: tax levy X Equalized Assessed Valuation. The school district sets the tax levy and the county determined the EAV of the district. If the EAV is wrong, then the county can reassess but the district can not reassess the tax levy. That is UNFAIR as the county is never cited in making a wrong initial assessment. So, in the case of a reassessment for Grainger, SD72 might have to return $96,000 to Grainger. These funds come directly from the school district and are not repaid. Maybe with representation at these meetings an arrangment can be negotiated to allow SD72 to pay in installments instead of in one lump sum. But without representation, Grainger could receive the money as soon as the reassessment is determined. My point on discussion was that the public is entitled to know where money is being spent. Kudos to Michelle for spotting this and writing the article. And I am all for spending less where possible.
Deadcatbounce January 19, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Well maybe these taxing authorities would be smart to set aside a percentage of their revenue for this sort of situation. I’ve gone to enough school board meetings to know that the schools do not plan for this at all in their budget. It’s like a company not planning on any bad debt/returns or a household not putting aside any money for emergencies. It’s always a big surprise to them. I don’t care if the money comes from the school district, its Grainger’s money. The district should have been smart enough to plan for this occurrence. School districts are too busy shoveling the tax money to administrators and teachers.
David Zornig January 19, 2012 at 09:28 PM
No one representing the tax authorities? That's the Assessor's job to seek representation for themselves, if they needed to defend their initial assessment figures. Which are grossly out of whack with the market to begin with. Hence the appeals. The County has their own attorneys. And if anything, the upper hand. If the County was wrong in the 1st place, why is the outcome of their reassessment automatically considered unfair? Simply because it's a lower, if not still unrealistic number, the school district doesn't like? Maybe it's time to stop the school district from setting anything. Cause they are clearly as out of touch as the County is. Never recouped? Why should an asset be classified as needing to be recouped, if it is proved through reassessments to never have been deserved as theirs in the 1st place? If some company like Grainger overpaid their taxes in lump sum, they deserve to be repaid in lump sum. The school district should be savvy enough to see that coming. Suppose Grainger gets taxed out of the area. Then where will the County & school district get their taxes from? Multiply that scenario by a couple big companies. Kudos to Michelle for exposing a bigger problem, in the process of letting the public know where money is being spent. Wrongly.
Donald India January 19, 2012 at 10:11 PM
The tax formula is very simple Tax Rate X EAV. In addition, in Cook and surrounding counties, the State of Illinois has ‘capped’ the revenue to school districts at the cost of living: 2.75%. . SD 67 has a Tax Rate of 2.058% and the district EAV is $337,372,434 or . 2.058% Tax Rate X $337,372,434 EAV = $6,943,125 Revenue . There are 3 large property owners in SD67: Kraft, Avon and the Dominicks Shopping Center. If a retail or commercial property is reassessed with a lower EAV of $2 million then 1) The total EAV goes down to $335,372,434 and is used in following years. 2) Taxes are rebated to the property owner: 2.058% X $2,000,000 = $41,160 paid by the district. 3) The school district is capped in the amount of revenue in a prior year X cost of living. . So $6,943,125 X 2.75% CPI = $7,134,061 4) The following year now yields the following tax rate: . $7,134,061 / $335,372,434 = 2.127% 5) Each homeowner with an EAV of $120,000 would pay $82 more just because of this one reassessment. . $120,000 X 2.127% (new rate) = $2552 . $120,000 X 2.058% (old rate) = $2,470 . $82 more just because of this 1 reassessment . By hiring attorneys, the district is looking out for the residents of the district.
David Zornig January 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
With all due respect, if you view any of the above as "very simple", you must assume we are easily impressed. If anything, you just showcased how unnecessarily, overly complex the tax code is. But we already knew that. That's why owners appeal regularly. The above formula will mean nothing, if an Appeals Board determines the obvious. That ALL properties are indeed worth less than the County thinks (and likely knows) they are. We ALL know they are. So it's probably a bad risk for $35K+. Not to mention the bad PR. Has anyone else above agreed with the article? You still have not answered why you characterized any of the potential reassessments, as "unfair". Quite possibly trying to gloss over the question, with all the above that may someday save me or others $82. That's the basis behind the attorneys. Still doesn't address what you see as unfair. I don't trust the judgment of some school district, who finds it wise to spend $35K just to start, to possibly "recoup" $300K+. That they may have not deserved in the 1st place. Based solely on the numbers in the above article. Nor do I believe they should have access to resources to do so. Thanks but no thanks, on that district's hired attorney's looking out for me. I'd rather pay the $82. I'm sure Grainger and the like are far better funded, to rightfully defend saving 2 mil, then the district is to take a chance on losing. Will the board members reimburse itself if it loses?
Donald India January 20, 2012 at 02:34 AM
It is unfair that Cook County Assessor is allowed to make mistakes without consequences. These errors in assessment are only uncovered when private citizens and owners of retail and commercial property file for a reassessment. . Yes the formula is simple: Tax Rate X EAV = Revenue. But by state law the NEW Revenue can not exceed the Cost of Living (COL). . The rest is just simple middle school algebra. . If EVA increases, the Tax Rate goes down until the NEW Revenue reaches the COL limit. . Again by law, districts pass a tax levy that can not exceed the current revenue + COL. The NEW Revenue is fixed; the county determines the EAV; the TAX RATE is derived; real estate tax bills are mailed; taxes collected and distributed to districts by the county. . Remember, the NEW Revenue is fixed. If the assessments were correct to begin with, the derived TAX RATE would be different. But the district would receive the same NEW FIXED Revenue. . It is UNFAIR that the county can make a mistake, be allowed to correct their mistake thru a reassessment and push the burden onto all other taxing bodies: school districts, villages, park districts, libraries, mosquito abatement and all others. . The county is NEVER held accountable for their error in wrongly assessing these properties. . It is NOT UNFAIR that residents, retailers and others file for reassessment. They should try to correct the county’s mistake. . $82 per $2 million: Grainger, Inland, Kraft, Avon..
Deadcatbounce January 20, 2012 at 03:47 AM
 By hiring attorneys, the district is looking out for the residents of the district." Mr. India is that a joke or are you one of those bottom feeder lawyers trying to justify your work.  The district could give a rat's behind about the residents.  All they are worried about is refunding tax revenue.    The school could care less how the pie (property tax levy) is divided up amongst the property  owners.  Again, if the district set aside a percentage of revenue for this eventuality, this would not be such a hardship. Unfortunately the school district wants to spend every last penny and more on  personnel and For some districts IPADS.
Deadcatbounce January 20, 2012 at 03:53 AM
So what are you saying, grainger, Kraft,inland should not get a refund! Life is unfair, but it's best you plan for it. Too bad these taxing bodies don't plan for the "unfairs".
Donald India January 20, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Nope - never said that. I wrote "It is NOT UNFAIR that residents, retailers and others file for reassessment. They should try to correct the county’s mistake." . What is UNFAIR is the county assessor making errors in assessments and "NEVER held accountable for their error in wrongly assessing these properties." . SD219 approved $35,000 for their portion of the attorney bill. SD219 pays half and the 9 elementary districts pay the other half if their boards approve the expenditure. . Even if districts planned for the reassessments in a contingency fund or line item, taxpayers who do not receive the reassessment will make up the difference following years. But the reassessed tax revenue is rebated in the year of the reassessment and effects the current school year. A rebate of $41,000 could mean the loss of a program or activity or planned facilities maintenance. . If all properties are correctly reassessed then the TAX RATE will go up automatically as the NEW Revenue remains . [current year revenue + Cost of Living increase] as determined by the TAX LEVY passed by the school district. . Again, this is why I believe this vote should have occurred in public with discussion and NOT in the consent agenda. SD219 board and administrators had the opportunity to inform the public why they thought this expenditure was so good for the public.
David Zornig January 20, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Mr India, D219's dispute should then be taken up with the County directly. Not fellow taxpayers, just because D219 thinks the latter has deep enough pockets to pay whatever the County mistakenly assessed on them in the 1st place. Plus even more $ now for their own lawyers. To further fight D219 in addition to the County. It is counterproductive to take legal action against fellow taxpayers. What you need to work on is changing the system with which the County assesses properties. And for D219, how the County chronologically disperses the tax money in advance of knowing it is fully theirs. Prior to appeals. It is naive to not understand the correlation between decreased property values, and less tax money collected after appeals. D219's greater public good, is irrelevant. The County can currently only be held accountable for their mistakes, by the appeals process. Why would anyone knowingly monkey wrench even that? And use tax dollars to do it? Your stance seems to be that the large property owners should still be responsible for the County's errors. Just because D219 was counting on the money. You are looking at it as money D219 was entitled to all along. It wasn't. D219 should anticipate that massive appeals are going to be filed, and budget accordingly. Not waste money on some backdoor way to bring attention to the matter. The board obviously did the consent agenda, because they knew the idea would never fly with a public discussion/
SH January 20, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Wish I could have said it so clearly.........
Deadcatbounce January 20, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thanks David!
Donald India January 21, 2012 at 10:42 PM
NO. You are not correct. This might be difficult for everyone to understand but SD219 IS ENTITLED TO THE MONEY. The voters determined the SD219 tax rate by referendum. If the voters did not want SD219 to use the tax rate then the referendum should have been defeated. Until there is a referendum to lower the tax rate, SD219 will ALWAYS be entitled to the current year revenue PLUS the current cost of living increase as the maximum they request for the next year. I have no gripe agaginst individual tax payers or retail or commercial property owners making sure their assessment is correct. I have a problem with the county changing the total EAV of the township thru reassessments and therefore RAISING MY tax rate and TAXES next year to make up for the reassessment they awarded others. If the county did their job, then everyone could plan on a maximum of the COL for SD219 and the elementary district. But with the fluctuations of the EAV, many pay more than the COL percentage. So good for SD219 for trying to make sure the residents of the district are being treated fairly.
Deadcatbounce January 21, 2012 at 11:39 PM
SD219 IS ENTITLED TO THE MONEY.  Hey, I'm entitled to my money too.  My paycheck each month is only 60% what my boss told me I would get.  On top of that I have to pay for all sorts of additional taxes and fees for services and stuff I don't want.  Every time I turn around someone is always asking for more of my money.  I can't even afford to hire a lawyer and stop this.  I also heard that I probably won't see any of the my social security money that they took from me.  HELP, I'm entitled and want to be treated fairly.
David Zornig January 22, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Mr. India, you seem to agree that the County is the culprit. So how can you endorse legal action against fellow taxpayers, for simply exercising their rights? Yet you say have no gripe with them. You can't have it both ways. Why isn't D219 suing the County instead? If the County is the one who needs to change the system? It's obvious that the referendum was created with a total ignorance & denial, of a real estate landscape that could ever fully pay for it. Were any large appeals to ever be requested & granted down the road. Property values have steadily declined since at least 2008. Just because it was voted on, didn't miraculously make land values change to achieve it. If the money's not there, it's not there. Entitlement to it, is really moot after that. Things change. That should have been anticipated by both the County & D219. It is completely irresponsible of D219 to use taxpayer money to fight taxpayers. I'm sorry that you can't see that. BTW, reassessments are not "awarded" to others. They are a right to all, when requested.
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