Oops: County computer error further delays Cook tax bills
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
by Karen Berkowitz
County officials have averted a disastrous property tax error affecting
80,000 long-term homeowners, but the discovery could further delay the
mailing of second installment property tax bills.
About 80,000 homeowners are due to receive a long-term occupant
exemption, which is better than the standard homeowner exemption
because there are no limits on the amount of the exemptions.
However, when the Permanent Index Numbers of those properties were
sent to the Cook County's MIS department in late August, a technical
glitch occurred and the numbers were not uploaded to the computer, said
Eric Herman, spokesman for Cook County Assessor James Houlihan, on
"The error was not in this office," said Herman, who looked into the problem based on an inquiry from Pioneer Press.
"What happened was that one of our staffers in the taxpayer services
department noticed the problem while doing a spot check and alerted
everybody," said Herman. "We were able to deal with it on the front
end. If we had not spotted this, the treasurer would have sent out
80,000 erroneous tax bills and that means we would have had to issue
about 80,000 certificates of error That would have been an
administrative nightmare for everybody."
Taxing districts would have been required to refund the overpayments
to those taxpayers, resulting in lost collections. More than $1 billion
of equalized assessed value was at stake.
Because of the error, the Cook County Clerk's office has
recalculated the tax base of each jurisdiction and computed new tax
rates. The clerk's office advised taxing districts last week to ignore
the tentative figures sent out earlier on tax rates and assessed values
and consider those reports "null and void."
Bob Benjamin, spokesman for Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, said
Tuesday the due date for second installment property tax bills may be
as late as Dec. 1 because the treasurer's office has not yet received
tax rates from the Cook County Clerk's office. Those rates are needed
before the treasurer can begin computing, printing and mailing about
1.7 million tax bills.
"The more time goes on, the more it looks like a possible Dec. 1 due date," said Benjamin.
The long-term homeowner exemption is available to owners who've
occupied the premises for 10 or more years and who have household
incomes of $100,000 or less. Like the standard exemption, the measure
limits the growth in assessments from year to year, but there are no
limits on the size of the exemption.
This year, the standard homeowner exemption will be capped at
$33,000 for homeowners in the newly reassessed west and south suburbs.
The maximum exemption will drop to $26,000 in the north and northwest
suburbs that were reassessed in 2007 and to $20,000 for homeowners in
the city of Chicago.