The township assessor is elected to a four-year term and is the only elected official required by statute to have formal training in order to hold office. Assessors in larger jurisdictions must possess the Certified Illinois Assessing Officer (CIAO) credential or the equivalent certification as stated in the statutes. Continuing education is also required.
The township assessor might more accurately be called a real estate appraiser. The Assessor does not levy (assess) a tax, but rather determines the market value of all property within the township. Separate market values are required for the land and the building portions of the real estate. After determining the total value of the real estate, the property is assessed at one-third (33.33%) of its appraised value. Assessing property at a predetermined percentage of market value is called a fractional assessment system. Many states other than Illinois use such an assessment system.
The assessor appraises all property as of January 1of the tax year. Reassessments are mandated by statute every four years. This is known as the general assessment year. The Property Tax Code does allow assessors to reassess any and all properties each year where necessary. This annual reassessment is encouraged by The Taxpayers Federation of Illinois and the International Association of Assessing Officers. Annual reassessment generates more accurate, and consequently, more uniform values. It also enables the Assessor to react to changes in the marketplace in a timely fashion.
Township assessors use the same principles, techniques and methodologies as those employed by fee appraisers with only slight variations to accommodate the uniformity criteria of the United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution. The ultimate purpose of the assessed value is to apportion the tax burden, as established by the taxing bodies, over all property in a fair and equitable manner based on the value of the real estate.
The Assessor uses three traditional approaches to value or appraise property: the cost approach; the market or sales comparison approach and; the income approach. These are the standard methodologies used in the appraisal industry. Their precise application may be altered slightly to accommodate the uniformity requirements.
Variations in the application of the three approaches to value are necessary as the Assessor is required to not only assess property at 33.33% of market value, but also to ensure that similar property have similar assessments. This is known as assessment uniformity.
Statistical testing and assessment analysis are integral parts of the mass appraisal process. As a result, assessors rely on statistical measures of central tendency including means, medians and coefficients of dispersion, much more than fee appraisers. These statistical measures are used to gauge whether Assessors are appraising property at the appropriate percentage of market value and whether the degree of uniformity within the township is within acceptable parameters.
Another major departure from typical appraisal practice is the “market under study.” The Assessor must analyze all the sales for the three year period preceding the assessment date. In contrast, an appraiser will generally not use sales that occurred over 6-9 months in the past from the date of appraisal.