Brazas v. Property Tax Appeal Bd.

Decision Date11 June 2003
Docket NumberNo. 2-02-0878.,2-02-0878.
Citation791 N.E.2d 614,339 Ill. App.3d 978,274 Ill.Dec. 522
PartiesChristopher J. BRAZAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD, Homer Henke, Charles Cain, Sharon U. Thompson, Max E. Coffey; The Kane County Board of Review, Duane Sunderlage, F. Spreit, J. Orin; and Burlington Township Assessor, Diane Weck, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Christopher J. Brazas, Hampshire, Pro Se.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, John P. Schmidt, Assistant Attorney General, Chicago, for Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board.

Justice GILLERAN JOHNSON delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Christopher J. Brazas, appeals pro se from the June 6, 2001, order of the circuit court of Kane County affirming the decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB). In its decision, the PTAB held that the subject property, a single-family dwelling in Kane County owned by the plaintiff, should receive an improvement assessment for 1996. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that (1) the PTAB erred in determining that the plaintiff's improvement to his property was substantially complete and (2) the assessment violated his constitutional right to equal protection since other similarly situated improved properties did not receive an improvement assessment for 1996. We affirm.

The plaintiff is the owner of the subject property, a recently constructed, 3,356-square-foot single-family home, located in Burlington Township, Kane County. Construction of the home began in 1992. On August 26, 1996, construction was complete and the plaintiff received an occupancy permit. Diane Weck, the Burlington Township assessor, inspected the home on October 11, 1995, and determined that it was approximately 80% complete. As such, she assessed the value of the home, as of January 1, 1996, at 80% of the value of the house when complete.

The plaintiff filed a complaint concerning the assessed valuation with the Kane County Board of Review (Board of Review). The Board of Review held a hearing and confirmed the assessment. The plaintiff then filed an appeal with the PTAB. In that appeal, the plaintiff argued that under section 9-180 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/9-180 (West 1996)), the pro-rata valuation of his home was improper. Section 9-180 of the Property Tax Code provides in pertinent part:

"The owner of property on January 1 also shall be liable, on a proportionate basis, for the increased taxes occasioned by the construction of new or added buildings, structures or other improvements on the property from the date when the improvement was substantially completed or initially occupied or initially used, to December 31 of that year." 35 ILCS 200/9-180 (West 1996).

Thus, the plaintiff argued that, pursuant to section 9-180, his home should not be subject to an assessment because it was only 60% complete as of January 1, 1996, which does not satisfy the "substantially complete" requirement of section 9-180. Furthermore, his home was not "initially occupied or initially used" until the occupancy permit was issued in August.

Additionally, the plaintiff produced evidence taken from a newspaper article of a list of three nearby properties. One property had a completed construction date of August 1996, one had a completed construction date of September 1996, and the third indicated a construction start date of late December 1995. The evidence also indicated that the properties did not have improvement assessments for the 1996 tax year. Thus, the plaintiff argued that he was unequally taxed.

At a hearing before the PTAB, the assessor testified that when she inspected the home on October 11, 1995, it was her determination that it was 80% complete. As a result of this, the home was assessed at 80% of its value as of January 1, 1996. The assessor further testified that properties completed through July 1996 were prorated for the 1996 assessment year, and properties completed after that date were assessed as of January 1, 1997. The assessor also testified that the comparable properties the plaintiff refers to as having no improvement assessment were either complete after July of the assessment year or the improvements were started and finished within a year. The assessor explained that she normally does not make an assessment on a property if the improvement is completed within a year. However, the assessor also explained that the plaintiff's home was an exception to the July 1996 partial assessment schedule, and was given an 80% assessed value for the 1996 tax year because it was roofed and enclosed since 1994. Additionally, a closing had taken place on the home and the assessor felt that it had market value.

The PTAB issued its decision on November 14, 1997. The PTAB found that the evidence indicated that the plaintiff's home was substantially complete as of the assessment date of January 1, 1996. As such, the PTAB upheld the decision of the Board of Review and found the valuation and the 1996 improvement assessment of the plaintiff's home to be proper.

On December 18, 1997, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Kane County for administrative review of the PTAB's decision. In his complaint the plaintiff argued that (1) the PTAB erred in determining that the plaintiff's improvement to his property was substantially complete and (2) the assessment violated his constitutional right to equal protection since other similarly situated improved properties did not receive an improvement assessment for 1996. The PTAB moved to dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff had failed to serve the PTAB with summons. On July 9, 1998, the trial court granted the PTAB's motion to dismiss the appeal. On appeal, this court reversed the dismissal and remanded the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings. See Brazas v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 309 Ill.App.3d 520, 530, 243 Ill.Dec. 124, 722 N.E.2d 1193 (1999).

Upon remand, the PTAB filed its response brief. In its brief, the PTAB argued that the plain language of section 9-180 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/9-180 (West 1996)) indicates that a proportional rather than a total exemption is appropriate for residences that are partially completed at the beginning of the assessment year.

On June 6, 2001, following a hearing, the trial court entered an order upholding the PTAB's final administrative decision. In its order, the trial court found that the case of Long Grove Manor v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 301 Ill.App.3d 654, 235 Ill.Dec. 299, 704 N.E.2d 872 (1998), was controlling and, therefore, the assessor was authorized to assess the plaintiff's improvement to the extent it added value to the property. After the denial of his motion to reconsider, the plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal.

Our review of this case is governed by the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 1996)). This court reviews decisions of the PTAB, not the decision of the circuit court. Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 307 Ill.App.3d 52, 55, 240 Ill.Dec. 248, 716 N.E.2d 842 (1999). As in other administrative review actions, the PTAB's findings and conclusions on questions of fact are deemed prima facie true and correct and will not be disturbed unless they are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Metropolitan Airport Authority, 307 Ill.App.3d at 55, 240 Ill.Dec. 248, 716 N.E.2d 842. The PTAB's conclusions of law are subject to de novo review. Metropolitan Airport Authority, 307 Ill.App.3d at 55, 240 Ill.Dec. 248, 716 N.E.2d 842.

The plaintiff's first argument on appeal is that the PTAB erred in determining that his house was substantially complete. The plaintiff argues that a house is substantially complete if the owner can occupy or utilize the home for its intended purpose. The plaintiff argues that he was not able to use his home for its intended purpose until the occupancy permit was issued in August 1996. Therefore, the plaintiff argues that his house was not substantially complete as required by section 9-180 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/9-180 (West 1996)) and should not have been assessed for the 1996 tax year.

We agree with the trial court that the case of Long Grove Manor v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 301 Ill.App.3d 654, 235 Ill.Dec. 299, 704 N.E.2d 872 (1998), is controlling. In Long Grove Manor, the petitioner argued that the improvement to his property should not be assessed because he did not satisfy the conditions of section 9-180 of the Property Tax Code. In that case, the 1994 version of section 9-180 applied. The 1994 version required the property to be substantially complete and initially occupied. Long Grove Manor, 301 Ill.App.3d at 655-56, 235 Ill.Dec. 299, 704 N.E.2d 872, citing 35 ILCS 200/9-180 (West 1994). The petitioner agreed that his improvement was substantially complete but argued that, since it was not initially occupied, it should not have been assessed for any amount in 1995. Long Grove Manor, 301 Ill.App.3d at 655, 235 Ill.Dec. 299, 704 N.E.2d 872.

On appeal, the Long Grove Manor court found that the assessment of the petitioner's improvement was proper under section 9-160 of the Property Tax Code, which provided in relevant part:

"On or before June 1 in each year other than the general assessment year * * * the assessor shall list and assess all property which becomes taxable and which is not upon the general assessment, and also make and return a list of all new or added buildings, structures or other improvements of any kind, the value of which had not been previously added to or included in the valuation of the property on which such improvements have been made, specifying the property on which each of the improvements has been made, the kind of improvement and the value which, in his or her opinion, has been added to the property by the improvements. The assessment shall also include
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4 cases
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    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • October 24, 2007
    ...in equal protection analysis is whether similarly situated persons are treated dissimilarly." Brazas v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 339 Ill.App.3d 978, 984, 274 Ill.Dec. 522, 791 N.E.2d 614 (2003). Here, defendant treats all taxpayers similarly — he does not allow payment by specification, r......
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    • March 6, 2023
    ...review, it is the decision of the agency, rather than the trial court, that we review. Peacock, 339 Ill.App.3d at 1068; Brazas, 339 Ill.App.3d at 981. 31 With respect to the PTAB's final administrative decision, plaintiff contends that the "root cause" of the "erroneous increase" in the ass......
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    ...inquiry in equal protection analysis is whether similarly situated persons are treated dissimilarly." Brazas v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 339 Ill. App. 3d 978, 984, 791 N.E.2d 614 (2003). Here, the plaintiff and the Tribune were not similarly situated, because the Tribune obtained its info......

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