By Bob Balgemann, REPORTER

The good news out of the Harlem Township Assessor’s office is two-fold.

  1. Home sales data this year shows property values are recovering in most neighborhoods.
  2. The number of property owners appealing their assessments has decreased dramatically from one year ago.

Township Assessor Mark Sorrentino said values in newer and higher valued neighborhoods are increasing. In addition, the equalized assessed value increased by 6 percent due to a $120 million market value increase of property in the township. New construction is another factor in the slow yet steady economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2008. In August of this year, 80 people came in to the Assessor’s office to ask questions or discuss concerns. That compares with 200 in 2015, he said. “Some were reduced,” he said of assessments. “We are approachable and will make adjustments while property owners are still in the office.” As for appeals, he said 204 were filed this year, compared with 600 in 2015. “That tells me how the system works and that property values are going upward,” he said. Of the 204 appeals, about 20 were filed by commercial and industrial property owners. This is the time of year when the Assessor’s office begins assembling evidence in support of the property assessments that are being appealed.

“We are taking on Home Depot and Menards, which are requesting major value reductions in their property,” Assessor Sorrentino said. Menards alone is asking for a $247,246 reduction in its tax bill. “Both have hired high-powered attorneys and appraisers to fight for their reductions,” he said. Harlem’s defense is being waged by his office, with assistance from Harlem School District 122. The district, which receives about 70 percent of a property owner’s tax, has been an ally in past defenses of appeals. “We take our responsibility very seriously to fight for the taxpayers on these large assessment reductions,” Sorrentino said. “The Board of Review will hear these cases, and others, early next year.” The Township has prevailed in most appeals over the years.

The Assessor’s office has an open door policy, he said, and welcomes property owners who have questions or concerns. With a new tax year in the offing – the next bill should be received in May 2017 – residents are reminded that the Assessor’s office is not responsible for whether their tax bill increases or decreases. It is suggested that property owners determine the taxing bodies on their bill and look at the rates. Call them with questions or attend one of their meetings to see if their proposed tax rate is going to be different the coming year.

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