Quad-Cities area lacking in assessor candidates

Originally Posted Online: March 30, 2013, 6:51 pm
Last Updated: March 31, 2013, 6:58 pm
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By Dawn Neuses, dneuses@qconline.com

There's a dearth of candidates for township assessor slots in the Quad-Cities area, likely caused by a state requirement that anyone holding the job be a Certified Assessing Officer.

"There are only two positions in the state you have to be qualified to run for," said Rock Island County Chief Assessment Officer Larry Wilson. A state's attorney much have a law license, and a township assessor -- who assigns property values upon which real estate taxes are based -- must be certified.

There are 15 assessment districts in Rock Island County. Of the 14 assessor positions up for election April 9 -- Coal Valley Township contracts out the position -- 11 are uncontested and three are vacant with no candidate.

There are 15 assessment districts in Henry County with 12 assessors. Six are up for election next week, but only Kewanee Township has a candidate -- Jennifer Prescott -- who is running unopposed. The other races have no candidates.

The educational requirements are stiff. To earn the initial designation as a Certified Assessment Officer, up to five courses must be completed through the Illinois Property Assessment Institute and/or Illinois Department of Revenue.

The courses cost $340 each and are commonly held in Bloomington and Springfield, lasting from two to four and a half days. The student covers the costs -- classes, hotel, food, gasoline -- to earn a designation to run for an office they don't know if they will be elected to or not.

To maintain the designation, 60 hours of continuing education is required every four years.

Mr. Wilson said the classes are important."You are valuing property, and you have to understand state statutes. Also, assessing property is different from fee appraisals. We are involved in the mass appraisal of property, and we value hundreds of properties at one time. It requires different skills than fee appraisals," he said.

Henry County Chief Assessment Officer Lindi Kernan likes the educational requirements. "They are very important. The whole tax process starts with your local township assessor," she said.

Ms. Kernan said sometimes a person can get hired by a township as a deputy assessor and earn the designation while working, with the township possibly covering the cost.

Other things could also be deterring people from running, she said. In smaller townships, the assessor is usually a part-time position and isn't paid as well as in a larger township.

For that reason, some townships are joining forces and funding to share an assessor, who can then work full-time, Ms. Kernan said. In other cases, townships without an assessor contract out the position.

Charles Tague has been Cordova/Port Byron multi-township assessor since 1996 and is unopposed on April 9. Last year, the multi-township assessment district of Canoe Creek/Zuma contracted his services.

Mr. Tague said the education required to do his job is worth the effort. "It is something you have to enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, you have no business doing it. In years past, people would run for office just to have a job and collect a paycheck," he said, adding a person can't do that and be the assessor. The requirements almost ensure candidates are very interested in the job, he added.

"The taxing bodies -- cities, villages, schools, fire protection districts -- would not receive any money unless the assessments were done," Mr. Tague said. "You want a fair and equitable assessment for everyone."


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