Cook County

Cook County Tax Bills on Pace to Arrive ‘By End of 2022'

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in July announced second installment bills, which for nearly a decade had arrived in August, would fall months late

Property tax bills should land in mailboxes across Cook County around the same time as holiday cards, with second installment payments expected to come due before the end of the year, county officials said.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in July announced second installment bills, which for nearly a decade had arrived in August, would fall months late because of delays with the assessment process and a computer system upgrade.

With little over three months left in 2022, several steps in the multi-agency process of tabulating and mailing out bills are as-yet incomplete. Still, the relay race of calculating, mailing and collecting bills was on pace to be complete by “the end of 2022,” Preckwinkle spokesman Nick Shields said Monday.

“As each step in the process is completed, we will better understand the bill’s mail date and, subsequently, the due date,” Shields said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The president’s office has supported and will continue to support the property tax group with requested resources so they can fulfill their duties to Cook County residents. We remain confident that their commitment to a due date of 2022 will be realized.”

Getting bills out by December is critical for many homeowners who want to claim the often hefty deduction for local tax payments on their 2022 individual federal tax returns. And a December due date would leave only a few months until first installment bills for 2022 are sent out.

The delay already has handed a blow to the pocketbooks of some property owners, who have gotten bills from their mortgage holders to add money to escrow accounts used to pay tax bills that have yet to be calculated, said Ali ElSaffar, Oak Park Township Assessor.

“The (banks) are having to use estimates because they don’t have an actual bill, and the banks have been used to getting that bill in July for the last 10 years or so,” ElSaffar said. “So we’re getting calls from folks who are dealing with that, and we’re getting calls from folks who are just wondering where their tax bills are.”

Late bills had been a near-annual inconvenience until Preckwinkle made getting bills out in timely fashion a priority in her first term as County Board president. Second installment bills had arrived by Aug. 1 from 2011 until 2020, when bills went out two months late amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the delay stems from the changeover to an “integrated” assessment system in County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office, which involves replacing a mainframe computer system that dates back to the 1980s with modern equipment. A Kaegi spokesman said the office had no comment and referred questions to Preckwinkle.

Difficulties compounded because the upgrade took place in a year when the city of Chicago, which has the largest number of parcels in the county, was due for a reassessment. And those new assessments in turn prompted a record number of tax appeals before the county Board of Review, slowing the process of finalizing assessments. Board of Review officials did not respond to several requests for comment.

According to the Board of Review website, “re-reviews” of appeals for a handful of townships still have not been completed, meaning the final valuations have not been forwarded to the state Department of Revenue. The state agency generates a tax rate “equalization” figure that is the final part of the equation needed for the County Clerk’s office to calculate individual tax bills. Finally, bills have to be printed and mailed by the county treasurer’s office.

ElSaffar said the timeline is tight but bills still could arrive in December, or even earlier.

“Everyone in this system knows that when you get the baton, you have to get your work done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
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