Much has been made of the delay in White County taxes. Aside from a prepared statement from White County Supervisor of Assessments Terry Abell, the only words shared about the situation have been by others and have mostly been accusatory or at the very least dissatisfied. WROY/WRUL’s Jc Tinsley visited with Ms. Abell Friday afternoon to learn more about the delay and just when taxpayers could expect their bills.
Tinsley: Why, in your own words, are taxes late, both this year and last year?
Abell: Well, my health, and of course I’ve addressed that in the statement I’ve sent you.
Tinsley: Is that something you’re comfortable…and of course I understand and respect if you don’t want to elaborate on that, but is there any information you can give us as to what kind of illness you’re dealing with and why it’s causing a delay.
Abell: I was hospitalized in 2019 and this year I went to the Mayo Clinic. They’ve finally found out what the problem was and I am on the mend. So I’m trying to let people know that I’m going to be here. I really don’t feel comfortable putting it out there.
Tinsley: Understood and I respect that. It’s not necessarily anybody’s business. Moving on, at the last county board meeting, when some folks got bent and wiggly about it, the only person I heard from was Chairman Donnie Puckett that actually said he’d been to your office multiple times to offer help. So I wanted to ask, what have our elected officials done, have they offered to help, and what could they do to help?
Abell: Yes, they have actually. They have offered. It’s hard to explain. There’s really nothing, if you don’t know what this job entails, there’s really nothing that they could do to help. We were on track. I sent things off to the Department of Revenue. They were totally shut down and working from home and depending on runners was my understanding to get information that was mailed to them. They wouldn’t accept the abstract through email. It has to come through the mail and that caused a delay. And then it snowballed.
Tinsley: So how many people work in your office?
Abell: I have two full time girls and a part time girl and myself.
Tinsley: And is that enough?
Abell: Ya know, this job is not an easy job for somebody to just come into. I don’t think people understand what all goes into this job and I’m not even talking about my job; I’m talking about an employee here. You have to be able to read a legal description. You have to be able to understand the laws. Because we get wills and trusts and things like that in here, you have to be able to understand this. And of course, White County is the highest oil producing county in the entire state of Illinois. We have almost as many oil parcels as we do real estate parcels…13,088 oil parcels to 19,489 real estate parcels. The oil, that’s what I did when I came to work here originally in 1999 and that’s a full time job alone for one girl.
Tinsley: So did the oil parcels play a part in the delay?
Abell: No, I mean everything was done. It was the delay in getting back information from the Department of Revenue on our tentative abstract and our final. When I send the tentative in, that takes at least a month that they’re going to have that because they do the sales ratio to determine if we are at or close to our 33 1/3%. 2019 was our Quad Year. Every 4 years, everything in the county is supposed to be looked at for reassessment. So when the township assessors turned their stuff in, there are a lot more changes. And of course, then I have to publish every parcel, whether it’s changed or not, in a newspaper. There are several townships that we haven’t had township assessors for a long time. One of my assessors, she and I worked on an issue that’s been ongoing in the county for a long time and got that resolved; got it assessed fairly for everybody concerned. I guess I shouldn’t; we shouldn’t have tackled that job on a quad year, but that’s the year you’d wanna do something like that because everything is supposed to be looked at. But ya know, I wasn’t expecting to be sick this year. I thought that was all behind me.
Tinsley: So are you even able to speculate at this point when people can expect their tax bills? Because information comes back to you and then goes to the Treasurer and then to the County Clerk, right?
Abell: I send it to the County Clerk and then she is the one that cuts the tax rates for each district according to the taxing body’s levies, the monies that are left after all exemptions are deducted from the equalized assessed value that I sent in to the Department of Revenue. And then she sends that all on to the treasurer. Then, the treasurer is the one that prints and sends out the tax bills.
Tinsley: So you anticipate we’re going to be back on regular schedule for next year?
Abell: Yes, even if I have to be here 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Abell’s written letter appears (photo) and via pdf below: