OTTAWA – A state appeals court will allow the city of East Peoria another crack at overturning a tax board's decision to cut the property tax assessment for the Par-a-Dice hotel and casino.
The Illinois Third District Appellate Court vacated a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) and remanded the case for further hearings, saying PTAB's decision was "based on ... erroneous interpretation" of tax law and "administrative agency requirements."
Justice Mary O’Brien wrote the opinion, and justices Robert Carter and Vicki Wright concurred.
The decision was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as a precedent. The case was remanded for further proceedings.
PTAB is a five-member body designed to give a forum to taxpayers in Illinois counties dissatisfied with property tax assessments. It is a defendant in the case along with Par-A-Dice Gaming Corp. and the Tazewell County Board of Review. Par-A-Dice is a hotel casino located on the Illinois River in East Peoria.
Officials of the casino filed a tax appeal with PTAB in 2014 challenging decisions of the Tazewell County Board of Review regarding the valuation of two land parcels owned by Par-A-Dice. The Tazewell Board reduced the assessed valuation of the two parcels, but Par-A-Dice contended the values should have been lowered further.
Par-A-Dice appealed and sought a 90-day extension to submit appraisal evidence, then sought a second extension. Both were granted. On Oct. 9, 2015, Par-A-Dice submitted its appraisal estimate.
In December 2015, the city of East Peoria moved to intervene.
In January 2016, PTAB notified East Peoria it had until April 20, 2016, to submit evidence or request an extension. The city was notified failure to do either would result in default. East Peoria mailed its appraisal to PTAB on May 6, 2016, which received it on May 12.
On June 24, 2016, PTAB sent East Peoria a notice it was in default because its appraisal evidence was not “timely filed."
East Peoria moved to vacate the default on June 28, 2016. Officials of the city explained their appraiser needed more time to complete his appraisal and that failure to request an additional extension was “inadvertent,” the ruling states. A counsel for the city believed he had requested an extension prior to going on vacation.
PTAB denied Peoria’s motion to vacate the default at a meeting in August 2016.
In October 2016, East Peoria moved for a hearing and objection also alleging violations of the Open Meetings Act regarding PTAB’s Oct. 12, 2016, meeting agenda.
At the Oct. 12 session, PTAB had voted to deny the city's request for a hearing and objection, in addition to approving the lower property tax valuation of the casino. At a meeting held on Oct. 21, 2016, PTAB accepted Par-A-Dice’s market valuation of the property and reduced the assessment.
East Peoria officials appealed, stating they had properly intervened in the case, achieved party status and had unfairly been held in default, denying them a hearing.
The Appellate Court opinion rejected an assertion by the defendants that East Peoria had lost its party status because of the late submission of appraisal evidence.
O'Brien added PTAB erred in defaulting East Peoria because its rules did not state a party’s failure to submit timely evidence would result in default. The opinion added that Par-A-Dice took seven months to file evidence when East Peoria had done so in six months, and PTAB had the city’s evidence for six weeks before declaring a default.
“It took another nearly four months for PTAB to decide Par-A-Dice’s appeal,” the opinion added.
On the issue of the Open Meetings Act, O'Brien said PTAB was in potential violation because the minutes of its meeting on Oct.12, 2016, did not indicate a public comment period had been held during the open part of the meeting.
“The violation does not command that PTAB’s action be deemed non-final or void,” O'Brien noted in the opinion.