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Cook County’s bills are coming in after months of delay

A month-long delay in sending out Cook County property tax bills has been resolved, with bills going online Tuesday, mailed by Dec. 1 and due by Dec. 30.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who is in charge of sending out bills and collecting payments, told the Tribune that her team is testing this weekend to post bills on Tuesday “assuming there are no glitches” or on Wednesday.

“Everybody wants to know” what their bill will look like, Pappas said, especially commercial property owners who are nervous about the city of Chicago’s first reappraisal under Assessor Fritz Kaega.

Taxpayers will be able to download their bill to print and mail a payment, pay online at the Treasury website, at Chase Bank branches or at the Treasury office downtown.

Thursday’s announcement closes one chapter in the conflict between Kaegi, whose office assigns a value to each property in the county, and the Board of Review, which hears appeals of those assessments. The news also backs up Cook County Council President Tony Preckwinkle’s promise to issue bills early enough for residents to calculate their payments on their 2022 tax returns.

In an emailed statement, Preckwinkle said she was “grateful” to the separately elected officials who worked to get the bills paid by the end of the year. Her office for the past few months has served as a mediator between the various officials responsible for sending out the bills.

“My office remains committed to providing the necessary resources and leadership to enable our elected officials to fulfill their responsibilities to all Cook County residents. … We will continue to provide this kind of leadership to ensure that every stakeholder in the property tax system can fulfill their responsibilities to the citizens of Cook County moving forward,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.

Bills are usually due by August 1st. But Preckwinkle suggested in an interview with the Chicago Tribune editorial board earlier this fall that the conditions that led to this year’s delay have yet to be resolved and delays could continue for the next “two years.”

Pappas was also frustrated by the delay, describing the situation in an interview with WGN last month as a “fiasco” that was “killing all other agencies.”

Delays affect both property owners and tax authorities who cannot pay for ongoing operations.

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To make sure of this taxpayers could take full advantage of federal, state, and local deductions from federal income taxes in 2022, Preckwinkle promised the bills would land by the end of the year. Delay also caused a headache for real estate agents trying to close home sales who can’t estimate the final bills – and therefore closing costs – can be.

To help taxing agencies like cities and villages, libraries, schools and park districts pay for operations during the delay, Preckwinkle launched a $300 million loan program for the county’s hardest-hit areas. Interest-free loans will help pay for operations, so that the tax authorities do not take more expensive loans on the market.

But only 49 tax authorities applied for loans, asking just over $100 million. As a result, only 22 tax authorities received loans for a total amount of slightly more than 39 million dollars. Most were eliminated due to ineligibility, a spokeswoman for the county’s Office of Finance said.

The City of Chicago and its taxing entities, including the Chicago Public Schools, were not eligible to participate in the program.

Kaeghi and Board of Review member Larry Rogers Jr. publicly disagreed about the reasons for delays. Kaegi said the Board was uncooperative in bridging a data gap that occurred during a technology upgrade to the Assessor’s outdated computer system. Rogers said Keggy’s office should have used a parallel system with both new and old technology to avoid the nuisance, and widely criticized his tenure as “the worst” of the 20 years he served on the board of directors.

Democrats Preckwinkle, Pappas, Rogers and Keagy won Tuesday’s election. But two members of the review board will be brand new: Chicago Ald. George Cardenas, who is leaving the City Council for a new position, and Samantha Steele. Both did not face opponents on Tuesday.


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