Explanation of Equalization Factors
The Illinois Property Tax Code states that a property’s assessed valuation and its fair cash value, with the exception of Cook County, properties that are not exempt from taxation or that do not qualify for statutory preferential assessment treatment (i.e., Farms, Open Space, Religious Organizations, etc.) are required to be assessed at 33 1/3% of their fair cash value.
State law requires the assessed values to be calculated based upon data from the three prior calendar years before the assessment date. In appreciating markets, this forces current property assessments to lag behind recent sales prices, and in declining markets, the decline of assessed values is delayed.
The Property Tax Code requires that the relationship between assessed value and the property’s fair cash value be uniform. The foundation of the assessment system is an independent statistical testing process which monitors the relationship between these two variables known as a sales ratio study. The Illinois Department of Revenue is required to compile a yearly sales ratio studies for each county and globally adjust the assessments within the county if the relationship between the assessed values and the sales prices are not at the statutory level.
Assessed values may be changed either individually or as a group by the application of an equalization factor. Factors may be issued at the state, county or township level. The Property Tax Code requires local assessment officials to individually review and adjust, when necessary, assessed values once every four years. Even though the Property Tax Code only requires the individual adjustment of assessed values once every four years, the statutory relationship between assessed values and sales prices must be maintained each year. During non-reassessment years, property assessments are typically adjusted by applying an equalization factor.
Assessment changes caused by State factoring may not be appealed to local appeal boards and are not finalized until shortly before tax bills are issued. Most counties try to avoid this situation by attempting to reach the statutory percentage of market value earlier in the assessment cycle by applying equalization factors at the local level. Local equalization provides property owners the opportunity to appeal the equalized value and publicly discloses the new assessment much earlier within the annual assessment cycle. The State historically has used one factor for an entire county when State equalization is required. When assessed values are adjusted by local equalization, sales data is taken from within individual townships to calculate a township-specific factor resulting in assessed values which are more representative of actual fair cash values.
Final 2014 Vermilion County Level of Assessment
(Source: Illinois Department of Revenue PTAX – 215, Vermilion County, 04/27/2015)