Earlier Cook County property tax bills could catch some short of cash
Updated: June 4, 2012 11:20AM
Homeowners who’ve come to expect a long reprieve between their spring and fall property tax bills may be caught ill prepared this summer when the second bill comes due Aug. 1.
That’s the fear of some township assessors, on news that Cook County expects to mail 2011 tax bills around July 1.
Though Illinois law requires tax bills be paid in two installments with March 1 and Aug. 1 due dates, the county hasn’t met the second-payment deadline in decades. Last year, second installment bills were due Nov. 1.
“The early due date will surprise most taxpayers, while causing some hardship for those who have become accustomed to due dates that have been as late as Dec. 13 in recent years,” said Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar.
“But schools and other taxing districts, some of which have had to borrow money because of the late due dates, will be pleased to reduce borrowing expenses,” he said.
“State law mandates that second installment tax bills in Cook County be paid by Aug. 1,” ElSaffar explained. “Since the 1970s, however, this law has been honored only in the breach.”
Eligible taxpayers who have not yet applied for exemptions will still be able to obtain corrected bills after tax bills are mailed in late June, ElSaffar said. But taxpayers should not wait until late June; they are encouraged to call the Oak Park Township Assessor’s office now for information on how to obtain corrected bills, he said.
“I’m concerned that many homeowners who have their mortgage companies pay their real estate taxes may not have enough in escrow to pay their second installment bill,” said Patricia Damisch, Northfield Township Assessor. She noted that Cook County’s late schedule has been so routine that financial institutions have set up mortgage escrow accounts accordingly.
“Owners need to make sure they have the funds available to pay their real estate taxes on time,” she said.
If homeowners who pay their own taxes are unable to pay in full by the due date, a 1.5 percent interest penalty is added for each month payment is late.
Mortgage companies don’t recalculate the homeowner’s escrow account until the end of the calendar year so homeowners will have time to catch up. However, homeowners can negotiate with the lender to cover escrow shortages and avoid higher monthly mortgage payments.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has made it a priority to get property tax bills out on time. Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios and the Board of Review were able to speed up the filing and disposition of tax appeals through a new online system. The Board of Review closed the books on April 24.
In recent years, the high volume of tax appeals has been cited as a reason for the delays, because tax rates cannot be computed until final assessment figures are known. The lllinois Department of Revenue can then finalize the multiplier on the assessments, setting off a chain of calculations in various county offices that ends in the printing and mailing of the tax bills.