Is Peoria County missing millions in tax revenue?
Peoria County has a problem with assessing commercial property causing the county and other taxing bodies to lose out on revenue, asserts North Peorian Del Bertschy.
Bertschy, last night, told the Peoria County Board an investigation he did shows the county has failed to properly assess 13 commercial properties resulting in the loss of more than $4 million in tax receipts in 2007 and ‘08. He added the figures he found may only be the tip of the problem.
Before making his presentation to the county board, Bertschy sat down with the Peoria Times-Observer and shared the results of his examination.
Bertschy, a retired information technology manager at Caterpillar, said if the county is not properly assessing commercial properties, it provides more reason to question the validity of residential property assessments. That is an issue the county board, supervisor of assessments and board of review have been under attack over by residential property-owners for months.
Bertschy said he has worked for months on his investigation using public records available from the county.
“I did this because I am interested in taxation in Peoria. I want to see the government gets the proper revenue from the proper sources,” Bertschy said. “I don’t want all the burden on the backs of the residential property owner.”
Bertschy said the county has more than 4,500 commercial properties in its boundaries. He picked out 25 commercial properties to examine. Thirteen, he said, were under assessed.
“Those 13 properties represent about one-fifth of 1 percent of the 4500 commercial properties in Peoria County, “ he said. “What do you suppose the loss would be if we had time to examine them all, $20 million, $30 million?”
Bertschy said he was “absolutely surprised” by the results of his investigation. Bertschy said he asked several other people to look over his work. He said they came to same conclusion he did.
But, Bertschy said he did not expect much reaction, if any from the county board.
“I hope to bring some daylight to this issue. I’m expecting the media to pick it up and run with it. I don’t have faith in the board to look into this unless they are forced to by the taxpayers,” Bertschy said.
“I hope this results in the county having an assessment and appraisal system we can all be proud of. I also hope it results in fairness in taxation.”
Bertschy, speaking to the county board, said his investigation shows the properties he examined were under assessed $88 million in 2007, resulting in a tax revenue loss of $2,341,000. In ‘08, he said the county bumped up assessments on the 13 properties 4 percent, resulting in a tax revenue loss of $2.1 million.
“From a residential standpoint we have just the opposite — an over assessing of residential properties as evidenced by the dramatic increase in cases before the board of review, many of which are simply dismissed or stonewalled,” Bertschy said.
Bertschy told the county board inequities in the assessment process appear widespread and serious. He added that anyone closely connected to the system knows it.
“The result has been unrealistic assessments and a review board with an apparent unwillingness to make reviews based on facts, and one which often seemingly stonewalls to avoid taking any action,” Bertschy said.
Bertschy said a root cause of the assessment problem is the computer software being used by the county.
“The program failed to pick up the commercial property sales and the residential properties previous assessment history,” Bertschy said. “Had the system been properly paralleled these problems would have appeared like a sore thumb.”
Bertschy suggested the county board appoint a special team of three to five Realtors and appraisers to temporarily oversee the county assessor’s office and the board of review. He also suggested the county board members take a course in property taxation to improve their understanding of the process.
“It’s time to move, ladies and gentlemen, and now. The citizens of the county are holding you accountable for this situation,” Bertschy said. “We’ll never get this lost revenue back. You can fix this if you want to. If not, it’s time for you all to go and let someone else do it.”
Peoria County Supervisor of Assessments Dave Ryon, without seeing Bertschy’s results, said minutes after the presentation he could not confirm or deny Bertschy’s assessment.
However, Ryon said he could not vouch for the reliability of any information the county uses to assess property taxes.
He said any computerized assessment software program suggests property values. He said it is then up to the township assessor to make any needed changes.
“There’s no reason to believe any info is incorrect unless we are notified it is wrong,” Ryon said. He added, “We were already aware we need to look at commercial properties.”
Ryon said he did not know how far that effort has progressed.
“It’s a matter of trying to gather enough information,” Ryon said. “Equity is our goal, always.”
Following are the results of Del Bertschy’s examination of commercial property tax receipts and the amount he purports was lost in 2007 because of faulty assessments. Peoria County officials did not have a chance to examine Bertschy’s figures and could not state whether they agreed with or disagree with Bertschy’s figures.
Bertschy came to his conclusions by comparing the actual sales price with the fair cash value of the property.
* Comfort Suites - 4021 War Memorial
Lost revenue - $103,975
* Strip mall - 7700 N. Grand Prairie
Lost revenue - $73,649
* Walgreen’s - 221 N. Western
Lost revenue - $86,329
* Glen Professional Plaza - 4911 Executive Drive
Lost revenue - $60,985
* Goodman’s - 7611 N. Grand Prairie
Lost revenue - $77,732
* Shopko - 2323 W. Pioneer Pkwy.
Lost revenue - $51,585
* Hamilton Square Bldg. - 300 Hamilton Blvd.
Lost revenue - $38,609
* AFFINA - 5515 War Memorial
Lost revenue - $259,266
* One Technology Plaza - 211 Fulton
Lost revenue - $322,312
* Shoppes at Grand Prairie - 5201 W. American Prairie
Lost revenue - $1,032,343
* Candletree Center - 7620 N. University
Lost revenue - $59,710
* Michael’s - 5212 N. Big Hollow Road
Lost revenue - $68,694
* American Electronics - 5801 W. Route 150
Lost revenue - $98,350
TOTAL - $2,341,539