Illinois counties consider delaying property tax payments
Delaying property tax payments would give much-needed relief for those struggling without a paycheck during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three Illinois counties are moving forward with plans to delay property tax payments as a way to offer economic relief to residents suffering without a paycheck as Illinois remains on a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Sangamon and St. Clair counties said their payment deadlines will be moved back to later summer dates. Kane County is expected to vote on a delay and other counties are discussing similar measures.
In Sangamon County, the next two due dates have been moved back to June 12 and Sept. 11. County Treasurer Joe Aiello said instructions would also be given out for remote payment options.
St. Clair County bills will be mailed on June 15, instead of their typical date in May. As of now, the new due dates will be July 30 and Sept. 30. “We understand the toll this pandemic has had on our community and hope this delay provides some relief to families and business owners who are struggling during this time,” county Treasurer Andrew Lopinot told the Belleville News-Democrat.
Kane County Treasurer David Rickert is also submitting a proposal to the county board that would move the first payment from June to Sept. 1, according to the Chicago Tribune. A press release from the treasurer’s office notes delaying the tax could cost the county $340,000, but the county’s protection fund of $4 million would minimize the impact.
While property tax delays may help some people in the short term, Illinoisans will be left with the nation’s second-highest property taxes long after the pandemic has passed. The Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force was at a stalemate on substantive fixes before the coronavirus hit.
Sangamon County’s residential property taxes outgrew home values by 49% between 1996 and 2016. That translates to $446 worth of property tax increases per person when adjusted for inflation. Ninety-five cents of every $1 taxed for municipal police go to pensions, and the entire $1 taxed for fire services go to pensions. In general, Springfield-area residents pay some of the nation’s highest property taxes.
Residents of St. Clair County struggle with rising property taxes as well. Homeowners there have seen their property taxes rise 5% since the Great Recession, while at the same time watched average home prices drop 23%. Kane County residents have also suffered a similar fate, with average home prices down 29% since 2007, while property taxes have risen 4%.
Unsustainable growth in public pension costs is driving property taxes up and forcing local governments to cut the services people expect for their taxes. Pension liabilities have risen faster than taxpayers’ ability to pay, with the all-too-common response being new and more creative ways to tax residents.
The sustainable solution is constitutional pension reform, especially when so many are not receiving a paycheck. Illinois can protect workers’ already-earned benefits while slowing the accrual of future benefits not yet earned – and eliminate the need for endless property tax hikes and other taxation schemes.
More counties should follow Sangamon, St. Clair and Kane counties in moving to delay property tax payments until workers are able to return to work and earn a paycheck. Illinois should pursue a statewide delay in commercial property taxes to give small businesses a better chance to recover from being closed by the pandemic.