Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=103723
Story Retrieval Date: 4/16/2014 5:08:51 PM CST

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Thousands delinquent on property taxes

by Meaghan M. Norman
Nov 04, 2008


Despite the imminent recession and the collapse of the housing market, fewer Cook County residents missed the property tax deadline than a year ago.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas estimated Tuesday that more than 350,000 people had not paid the final installment of this year's taxes that were due on Monday. That's down 68,000 from last year.

The first installment of this year's property tax was due March 4. The second installment was due by the close of business on Monday. In a preliminary tally Pappas announced last Friday that 476,000 people had not paid taxes totaling $1.8 billion..

Each year the county collects more than $10 billion in taxes on more than 1.7 billion homes, businesses and land parcels, then distributes the receipts to the 1600 municipalities, school districts and other taxing districts within the county.  Sixty percent of all monies are allocated for schools, libraries and parks.

If taxpayers missed Monday’s deadline, there is a 1.5 percent penalty each month. If the bills remain unpaid, the taxes will be sold to a tax purchaser at the annual tax sale, which usually takes place any time between the fall and spring.

Eric Herman, spokesman for the Cook County Assessor, said, “This tax bill season we’ve seen a lot of people, particularly people who live in the city, being hit with higher bills.”

If people are unable to pay their taxes, the whole community is affected, Pappas pointed out.

“If you can’t afford a home, you shouldn’t have one,” said Pappas. “The city has to get paid so if the taxes aren’t paid, they will get sold.”

Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan, who is advocating emergency measures to be put in place to help struggling taxpayers, said too many Americans are being crushed by rising bills.

Houlihan states on his Web site, “too often property taxes bear little relation to a homeowner’s ability to pay. Given the current economic crisis and the unfortunate phase-out of the 7 percent Expanded Homeowner Exemption, many taxpayers need immediate help.”

The Expanded Homeowner Exemption limited the amount of money a homeowner’s assessed value could increase each year. Last year, the law provided a maximum homeowner exemption of $40,000 for people in Chicago. But the legislature cut that to $26,000 for the 2007 tax bills.

Houlihan’s newly proposed 2007 County Property Tax Circuit Breaker would give homeowners a maximum of $700 to pay their taxes if their bills exceed 5 percent of their income.