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November 15, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 94--TX--07. Honorable John W. Darrah, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication December 17, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court. Geiger and Hutchinson, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas

The Honorable Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, the Du Page County Board of Review (the Board), appeals the judgment of the circuit court which affirmed on administrative review the decision of defendant, the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), lowering the assessment of property owned by defendants Dennis and Karen Skogsbergh. The Board contends that (1) as a matter of law the property owners failed to present clear and convincing evidence that their property was not assessed uniformly with other parcels where their evidence consisted solely of four adjusted comparables; and (2) the decision of the PTAB lowering the assessment is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The Skogsberghs own a single-family residence in Glen Ellyn, in Milton Township. The house is a tri-level constructed primarily of brick. The Skogsberghs purchased the house in March 1990 for $405,000. The Board established a final assessment for the property of $127,960, reflecting a fair market value of $385,073.

The Skogsberghs appealed to the PTAB, claiming that the assessment was excessive compared to those of similar properties. Tax consultant Lawrence Labus was the Skogsberghs' witness before the PTAB. As part of his testimony, he discussed the assessments of four comparable properties. All four were similar homes located in the same subdivision as the Skogsberghs' house.

According to Labus, the Milton Township assessor had placed the following per-square-foot assessed values on the comparable properties: $23.81, $24.15, $22.43, and $23.99. Labus acknowledged that the Skogsberghs' home had more amenities than the others. His spreadsheet shows that, among other things, the property at issue had more plumbing fixtures, a larger garage, and a larger patio than some or all of the comparables. Therefore, he made cost adjustments to the comparables which raised their respective values to $24.91, $24.50, $23.37, and $24.72 per square foot.

Labus testified that he neglected to take into account the differences in basement size between the subject property and the comparables. Upon doing so at the hearing, he concluded that the Skogsberghs' house should be assessed at $24.42 per square foot, resulting in a total improvement assessment for 1991 of $92,724.

Labus did not make any cost adjustment for the fact that the Skogsberghs' home is primarily brick while the comparable houses are primarily frame. He stated that he did not do so because increases in lumber prices had made frame construction nearly as expensive as brick construction.

Labus also believed that the land assessment of the subject property was too high relative to the comparables. The area of the subject parcel was 13,200 square feet. It was assessed at $26,090, or $1.977 per square foot. The comparable parcels ranged in size from 11,700 to 19,740 square feet and had assessments ranging from $21,490 to $25,020, or from $1.267 to $1.899 per square foot.

The Board of Review presented a grid analysis comparing the Skogsberghs' property to the comparables. The Board also introduced the comparables' property cards. In addition, the Board placed into evidence a fifth comparable, another property from the same subdivision that had an improvement assessment of $25.68 per square foot.

The Board's witnesses pointed out that there will be differences among the properties within a subdivision in terms of construction and amenities. The subject property is primarily brick while the comparables are predominantly frame. In addition, the subject property has an 812-square-foot garage while the garages of the five comparables range from 506 to 669 square feet. The subject has 3 1/2 bathrooms while the other properties have either 2 or 2 1/2 bathrooms. Finally, the subject property has a full basement, while the comparables have only half or three-quarter basements.

Board member Lawrence Kearney explained that the assessor attempts to establish median levels of assessed values based on the assessor's experience in the real estate market. As an aid to maintaining median levels of assessments, the assessor rates each property on the record cards under the category "Building Class." The subject property has a 1.9 rating, while Labus' comparables are rated ...

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