Judge Rules In Favor Of Hundreds Of Stephenson County Taxpayers

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Hundreds of Stephenson County taxpayers could soon receive a refund check. Monday, a Stephenson county judge ruled in favor of hundreds of taxpayers.

Four years ago, Freeport attorney Bob Slattery filed a tax objection lawsuit. It claimed the Freeport School District, the Freeport Park District, and Highland Community College levied taxes illegally. That’s because these agencies raising taxes for their tort funds used the money for other purposes. The court determined the Freeport School District illegally used these funds to pay for employee salaries and alleged district discrimination. An appeals process is expected to last up to two years.

If the ruling stands, affected residents will receive an average refund of $500 to $1000 over five years.

"It’s one of those rare victories for the taxpayer. It just seems like every time that a government entity needs money, they go to homeowners and I think that needs to stop," affected taxpayer Brian Borchardt said.

"They were advised by their attorneys that what they did was proper. They got terrible advice, they were wrong, they lost," Slattery said.

An attorney representing the Freeport School and Park Districts says those taxing bodies had the right under a statute to use tort funds for risk management, including portions of salaries for district administrators and school nurses. But Monday, the court disagreed.