Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Assessor and appeals board catch up assessment backlog

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

By JEFF SCHULTZ

Eliminating a stack of over 9,000 assessment appeals would be a tall order for any county government, but Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder, his staff, and the Property Tax Board of Appeals accomplished the seemingly insurmountable task in just a shade under two years.

During a press conference Tuesday at the County Administration Center, Snyder said 7,038 appeals from 2006-2010 were still pending when he took his oath of office in January 2011 and grew by 2,000 more later that year.

Snyder estimates that over $15 million, as well as $1 million in interest, of property tax has been refunded to taxpayer pockets. County Auditor Bob Wichlinski later on Tuesday said that the net effect of reconciliation on the appeals for taxing units across the county is $29 million.

He took subsequent steps to revamp the PTABOA board to be quicker and more efficient by reducing the number of board members from five to three. That allowed the board to meet more often since a quorum could be established more easily. Sitting on the PTABOA board currently are its president Joe Wszolek, vice-president Vicki Urbanik and Nick Sommer.

Wszolek and Sommer are Commissioner appointees; Urbanik, the bipartisan board’s sole Democrat, is the Council’s appointment.

This year, Sommer replaced PTABOA member Jeff Sederberg, who also contributed to the backlog reduction.

Snyder also appointed two of his staff to work on the appeal backlog full time. He also credited Portage Assessor’s office, the county auditor’s office, the board of Commissioners, and the County Council.

“These groups have worked tirelessly to reach this important milestone,” said Snyder, adding the task was not an easy one. “I am extremely proud of my staff and applaud them for accomplishing what some thought was impossible.”

Residential properties made up roughly 75 percent of the appeals and commercial properties around 25 percent. While the appeal refunds do impact the revenue collected by taxing units, there is a benefit in the fact that the county will not have to pay as much interest with the backlog whittled down, Snyder said.

With the appeals under control, Wszolek said that taxing units can “finally begin functioning with a budget they can depend on.”

Assessments for 2012 went out at the end of last month and so far nearly 2,000 appeals have been sought and close to 800 of those have been screened out, Snyder said. As the state requires, taxpayers have 45 days to file an appeal with the assessor’s office. The last day to do so is Nov. 13.

Appeals can also be filed online at www.portercountyassessor.com

which was started last year. Porter County is the first and only county in the state currently to offer an online appeal option.

“Our office will implement safeguards to ensure that the words ‘backlog’ and ‘appeal ‘are not in the same sentence again,” Snyder said.

PTABOA meetings for 2012 appeals are starting to be scheduled. Chief Deputy of the Assessor’s office Daniel Timm said they will still be screening the appeals for any “low-hanging fruit” the staff can clear up first, sparing taxpayers the process of having to go through the PTABOA.

Snyder said he expects 3,000 appeals to be filed this year, which has been about the average compared to recent years. Many of those who appeal do so year after year. And even though about 75 percent of the county’s 80,000 parcels saw lower assessments, appeals still have been steady. This year’s assessments also reflect reassessment numbers which the state requires ever five years.

Not included in the reconciliations are any appeals made by the County’s steel mills since they are now assessed by the state, Snyder said.

 

Posted 10/25/2012