Lake County Assessor reflects on first year in office

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Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince

Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince says his first year in office has exceeded his imagination.

Prince said he improved operations by eliminating positions that he believes were redundant. He said, “In doing so I was able to enhance the pay of the personnel that I had felt were deserving of a raise and get their pay competitive with the private sector.”

With a staff of 32, Prince said the first issue he had to address in the office was to introduce new software to the assessor’s office, as well as to the local township assessor. He said the task was a huge undertaking. The software vendor that was replaced had served the county for 20 years. Prince said professional experts who were familiar with software technology were brought in to help install the new system.

He said, “The point of it was to realize better efficiency and enable the staff to work more productively and review their work without calling in the vendor every time.”

The second most major issue Prince addressed was settling the assessor’s office agreement with Majestic Star Casino.

He said, “When I got here, the negotiations had stalled. They appealed their assessed values and it went back and forth. Millions of dollars later, we were paying attorneys and the interest accumulating was excessive. We revisited it and were able to wrap it up. Ultimately, that was for the best interest not only for the county and in some instances the city, as well as and Majestic Star. It stopped all of the expenses that both sides were accruing. The result of which has been that we settled on a fixed assess value for the next four years. Now the units of government as well as the county will have enough assurances of revenue available to supply government.”

The next major thing Prince set out to do was settle an appeal that involved the Horseshoe Casino. He said, “Within my first two months in office they appealed their assessed values. We were able to forgo years of back and forth negotiations and save unlimited dollars in attorney fees and ultimately realize an additional $15 million in assessed value for the next four years, which translates into an overall $3 million savings. We were really happy about this one.”

Prince said the next effort the assessor’s office wants to undertake in the coming year will be to review and substantiate assessed values across the county to establish a more unified way of making consistent property assessments.

Prince said since January 1, 2015, he has worked everyday none stop from 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. “I’m a firm believer that you lead by example. I wait on people at the counter and I invite people into my office without an appointment to see me. I’m as open and transparent as I can possible be, but simultaneously I lead the way I want my staff to be and that is to service our constituents.”

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