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home : news : local   May 25, 2016

1/9/2013 8:51:00 AM
Committee: Settle property tax lawsuit

Kevin Caufield
NewsTribune Reporter

OTTAWA — La Salle County Board may choose to settle a 2006 tax objection involving thousands of county residents.
Finance committee members Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of settling the six-year-old tax objection for about one quarter of what was sought. The full board will vote to finalize the purported six-figure settlement Thursday. An actual dollar amount has yet to be released publicly.
“All we are doing is giving back the money we had levied for the tort fund back then,” said county board chairman Jerry Hicks (D-Marseilles).
The objection, filed in 2006 by attorneys Thomas James and Robert Slattery, centers on the La Salle County Board’s tort levy, a fund filled by property tax dollars that must be used to pay for injury claims or to protect the county board against lawsuits.
Both attorneys allegethe county board illegally used $6.5 million of the $8.6 million it imposed in its tort levy in 2005 to pay for office expenses, claims equipment, personnel, professional services, life insurance and other expenses, based on information received after filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the La Salle County Clerk’s Office.
As a result, the two attorneys sent mailers to more than 10,000 county property owners inviting each to join in the complaint. About 1,245 property taxpayers agreed.
The case had taken an unexpected turn when the 3rd District Appellate Court ruled in 2009 that state law doesn’t allow people who did not file tax objections to find relief if it is found a taxing body illegally levied funds.
That means only the 1,600 property taxpayers who originally signed the tax objection will get a share of the settlement based on their property’s 2005 taxable value and value of property. The remaining 62,000 property taxpayers will get nothing.

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or

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