More Illinois counties offer property tax delays to ease COVID-19 losses
Property tax delays give breathing room to homeowners, many of whom have gone more than a month without a paycheck because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kane County Board approved a plan to ensure no one pays late fees on payments due June 1, as long as they are turned in by July 1. The break will not apply to payments done through a third party, such as tax payments placed in escrow through a mortgage lender.
McHenry County also moved to extend relief to homeowners with a 90-day extension on late fees and interest. Payments can be made without penalty by Sept. 15 instead of June 15. Like Kane County, the extra time will not apply to payments through a third party.
DuPage County has moved to suspend interest and late fees for 90 days. Interest on late payments is now due Sept. 1. Residents must demonstrate they have suffered financial hardship directly as a result of COVID-19, according to WLS-TV.
Sangamon County committed to moving due dates on property taxes to June 12 and Sept. 12 to give residents extra time to obtain unemployment, stimulus checks or other relief.
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 said.
Not all county boards have supported extra time for residents to pay property taxes, however. The Lake County Board shot down the idea, citing feedback from communities that a property tax delay would hurt their finances. Residents will still need to turn in their bills by June 8. Other counties, including Cook, have not considered changing the payment deadline.
Under Illinois law, areas under a disaster declaration can waive fees and change due dates on property taxes. All 102 counties in Illinois are considered disaster areas by both the state and federal governments because of COVID-19.
Illinois homeowners again paid the nation’s second-highest property taxes, behind New Jersey, in the annual survey by WalletHub. Illinois taxes average $4,705 on a $205,000 house, the national median. This is the third consecutive year the two states ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the property tax survey.
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 1.5 million workers are directly impacted by the COVID-19 orders and face layoffs or reduced hours. Illinois can protect public workers’ already-earned retirement benefits while slowing the accrual of future benefits not yet earned – and eliminate the need for endless property tax hikes and other taxation schemes that try but are failing to cover the nation’s highest pension debt.
More counties should consider moving to delay property tax payments until more homeowners are back to work.
Better yet, Illinois should use its emergency borrowing powers to finance a statewide delay in commercial property taxes until at least Oct. 1. Local governments could still receive needed revenue through the loan, while small businesses would gain a better shot at recovering from the financial losses caused by the pandemic.