Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County No. 97--MR--439 Honorable Patrick J. Dixon, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gilleran Johnson
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 (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 (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 (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 ...