Property Taxes Impacting Ballot Access and FOIA Requests

by Franczek Radelet P.C.
Contact

[authors: Scott Metcalf and Ares Dalianis]

Issues related to property taxes extend beyond levies, collections, assessment appeals and refunds. Two recent decisions, one from the Illinois Supreme Court and the other from the Illinois Appellate Court, examine the interaction of property taxes with other areas of concern for school districts and units of local government. As both national and local elections approach, the Illinois Supreme Court’s treatment of the interaction between property taxes and ballot access is of interest to candidates and local election officials alike. And, the Illinois Appellate Court’s recent treatment of the relationship between the Property Tax Code and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is informative for those dealing with either aspect of government administration.

Property Taxes and Ballot Access

Recently, the Supreme Court overturned an Appellate Court decision we first reported in a March 2011 FR Alert regarding access to municipal ballots. The Supreme Court ruled that unpaid property taxes are debts owed to the county that collects the property taxes on behalf of taxing agencies, not debts owed to the individual taxing bodies that levy the taxes. Therefore, unpaid property taxes do not prevent a candidate for municipal office from appearing on the ballot.

Section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code provides that a person is not eligible for elective municipal office if that person owes a tax or other debt to the municipality.  In Jackson v. Bd. Election Commrs. of the City of Chicago, a candidate had claimed homeowners’ exemptions on multiple properties for previous tax years, even though she was entitled to only one homeowner’s exemption. After filing her nominating papers, the candidate waived the extra exemptions and paid the approximately $4,000 in delinquent property taxes owed on her properties. There was no dispute that at the time the candidate filed her nominating papers she was in arrears on her property taxes.

The Supreme Court found that while local taxing agencies are the ultimate beneficiaries of the property tax system, the obligation of property owners is to pay their taxes to the county. The county then has the obligation to turn over the money collected to local taxing agencies. The end result is that property taxes are not a tax or debt owed to a municipality, and unpaid property taxes will not bar a candidate for municipal office from access to the ballot.

Property Taxes and FOIA Requests

In Sage Information Services v. Humm, the plaintiff sent a FOIA request to the chief county assessment office of Franklin County asking for an electronic version of the current real property assessment record file for the entire county. The plaintiff also sent a FOIA request to the Franklin County Treasurer asking for an electronic copy of the entire real property billing file for the 2009 tax year. The Supervisor of Assessments Office asked for payment in excess of the cost of the electronic media on which the data would be stored. The Treasurer’s Office responded that it did not maintain possession of the requested information in electronic format. In response, the plaintiff filed suit claiming the Supervisor of Assessments was requiring an excessive fee for the information in violation of the FOIA and seeking to compel the Treasurer’s Office to turn over the requested information.

The Appellate Court agreed with the plaintiff that any fee in excess of the cost of the electronic media on which the data would be stored was excessive. The key to the decision was a change to the FOIA made during the substantial revisions to the statute that became effective January 1, 2010. The prior FOIA language limited the fees that could be charged for information to the “actual cost of reproduction or certification, unless otherwise provided by statute.”  Under the FOIA statute as it existed prior to January 1, 2010, that meant the more specific provision of the Property Tax Code governed the fees that could be charged for property tax data. That provision of the Property Tax Code allowed the custodians of property tax records to charge “reasonable fees” for copies of property tax information. The 2010 changes to the FOIA now state that there are different fees for paper and electronic copies of information. Fees for information in electronic format may not exceed the “cost of purchasing the recording medium, whether disk, diskette, tape or other medium.” Thus, the Court concluded that the Supervisor of Assessments Office could not charge more than the cost of the CD for the information requested.

As for the Treasurer’s Office, the Court agreed that the Treasurer could not be compelled to turn over information not in his possession. Because plaintiff requested the information in electronic format and the Treasurer testified that he only maintained the information in paper format, plaintiff’s request under the FOIA was denied.

Both Jackson and Sage Information Services are instructive to those involved in administering government agencies. Jackson is interesting not only for the impact on municipal ballot access, but also for the principle that property taxes are owed to the county collector rather than the taxing body that actually levied the taxes. Likewise, Sage Information Services serves as a reminder to those involved with FOIA issues that changes to the FOIA have greatly expanded access to electronically stored information regardless of how extensive the request.

 

Written by:

Franczek Radelet P.C.
Contact
more
less

Franczek Radelet P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.