Lake County property owners will receive redesigned assessment notices starting next week. Gone are the familiar blue postcards. Instead, the information will be presented on blue, letter-sized paper and contain more information about the property, the assessment process and where tax dollars go after checks are written.
"We want people to understand who's getting what," said Marty Paulson, the county's chief assessment officer. "Taxpayers need to start understanding that a little better." About 273,000 of the annual notices will be mailed gradually through November. Every property owner will get one, not merely people whose land value has been reassessed.
The notice's new look was partially prompted by state legislation designed to make the assessment process clearer. It was signed into law Tuesday and is effective statewide next year, Paulson said. Lake County officials began work on the redesign last year, however. Paulson said, long before the legislation was approved. "We pretty much knew it was coming," he said of the law.
The new forms include a lot more information than the old cards. One new box lists characteristics about the property, such as the size of a house and the year it was built. If that data is incorrect, Paulson said, a property owner should call their township assessor. The forms also have information about homestead exemptions and contact information for township officials, including e-mail addresses.
Although assessments help determine your property-tax bill, these notices are not tax bills. In Lake County, those statements go out every May and are due in two installments. County officials want to remind people that property values aren't necessarily decreasing because of the current recession and slumping housing market. Assessors use three years of data to determine assessed values, which are different from home values, county spokeswoman Jennie Khoen explained. The new assessments are based on property sales from 2006, 2007 and 2008. Next year's property-tax bills could reflect the housing market's dive, Paulson said.
To learn more about the assessment process, visit lakecountyil.gov. The Web site will have answers to frequently asked questions, links to videos, a guide to reading an assessment notice and other information. You can also call Paulson's office at (847) 377-3050.