Judge rules officials had right to assess Carle's properties in 2004

Judge rules officials had right to assess Carle's properties in 2004

URBANA — Local assessment officials had the right to assess four Carle Foundation properties in Urbana, according to a written ruling issued Tuesday by Champaign County Judge Randy Rosenbaum.

His decision was a pretrial victory for local taxing districts, which were facing a ruling that — had it gone the other way — would have effectively opened the door to Carle getting refunds on the taxes it paid from 2004-11 on four of its properties in Urbana.

Carle paid $20.7 million in taxes to local governments under protest during that period on the four properties, which include Carle Foundation Hospital at 611 W. Park St., 809 W. Park St., 503 N. Coler Ave. and 607 N. Orchard St.

Carle most recently went to court contending that county officials and the Cunningham Township assessor were wrong when they didn't continue to recognize the long-held tax exemptions Carle had on the four properties.

Triggering the value placed on Carle properties in 2004 was new construction on the Carle campus, viewed by the defendants as a change of use that could legally prompt a new look to determine whether what was being added could be considered tax exempt or non-exempt.

In denying Carle's motion for a summary judgment on a key count of what's become a decade-old lawsuit, Rosenbaum said assessment officials needed to place a value on the properties, so exemptions could be decided by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Any other view would lead to the "absurd result" that taxing authorities would never be able to review current assessments and exemptions unless the owner notified them of a change, the ruling states.

"The court finds that the local assessors had the authority to assess, and, even if they did not, the assessments are still valid because the Board of Review and the DOR (Department of Revenue) had the authority to act," Rosenbaum wrote. "This applies to all the tax years in question. In short, there was no wrongful termination of exemptions as plaintiff (Carle) asserts."

The Carle tax lawsuit is headed to trial in January 2019. The trial is expected to run 15 to 21 days.