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GOP attack mailer boomerangs

September 5, 2018

Last month, the state Republican Party took Democratic state representative candidate Lisa Dugan to task for having “her property taxes lowered four times.”

Here’s the thing: The GOP candidate, incumbent Lindsay Parkhurst, had her tax assessments reduced, too.

And here’s another thing: There’s nothing wrong — legally or ethically — with people appealing their tax assessments and getting reductions. It’s called due process, a right granted under the Constitution.

Dugan, a former state representative, and Parkhurst are facing off in the Nov. 6 election in the Kankakee County-based 79th House District.

In mid-August, the Republican Party leveled the tax allegation against Dugan amid other criticisms, including the pensions she receives from her previous elected positions and the times she voted to raise her legislative pay when she served before.

The Daily Journal previously reported on the GOP’s misleading claim about Dugan’s taxes. At the time, the newspaper was unable to get immediate information from the Kankakee County assessor’s office about Dugan’s and Parkhurst’s appeals on their property tax assessments.

The assessor’s office advised the Journal to file an open records request; in response, the newspaper sought the records of the candidates’ appeals going back a decade.

In 2008, according to the records, Dugan sought a lower value for her property on Armour Road in Bradley. The county’s Board of Review reduced it by 7 percent to $207,000.

During the last decade, Parkhurst appealed her tax assessment three times. She was successful twice, reducing the assessed market value of her property on Marquette Lane in Kankakee by 8 percent to $428,000 in 2008 and another 8 percent to $399,960 in 2009.

In 2017, she again tried to get a property tax reduction, but failed. It stayed at $338,000. That was substantially lower than the value in 2009; most properties saw dramatic plunges after the housing market crashed.

In Illinois, county boards of review handle property assessment appeals. A county board can pick no more than two members of the same party to the three-member board of review. In Kankakee County, Republicans long have controlled the county board.

If the Republican Party is suggesting Dugan had an inside track with the board of review, it would, in effect, also be pointing the finger at the GOP-appointed board of review.

Asked last month about its Dugan tax claim, Travis Sterling, the state Republican Party’s executive director, said in an email that the former lawmaker “worked the system and saved herself thousands of dollars, all the while voting repeatedly with and for (House Speaker) Mike Madigan in Springfield.”

Asked this week whether Parkhurst also “worked the system,” Sterling didn’t immediately respond to a message for comment.

Tax assessment appeals are not unusual. In 2017, Kankakee County received 363 tax assessment appeals out of 53,274 parcels.

Since the Daily Journal’s first story, the GOP has repeated other allegations against Dugan, but it has not revived its tax claim.

Dugan didn’t return a message for comment.

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