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Taxing bodies prod Cook County to get tax bills out on time-ish

Monday, April 26, 2010
Daily Herald
by Eric Peterson

Taxing bodies in and around Schaumburg Township Monday called on the Cook County Board of Review to issue the second installment of this year's property tax bills by the official deadline of Aug. 1 instead of delaying until 2011.

Board of Review Chief Deputy Commissioner Scott Guetzow said such late billing is inevitable due to delays in the system that aren't caused by his office. It's been 32 years since the county got the bills out on time, and the delays have been getting longer and longer.

Schaumburg Township Assessor John Lawson held a news conference Monday morning in which he was joined by representatives of several villages, libraries, park districts and school districts within the township.

These representatives spoke about the problems local governments will face from late payments of property taxes. Taxpayers also will suffer, they said, because they won't be able to declare their property tax payments on 2010 income tax forms if they aren't made until early next year, which is considered likely.

"Everyone in Cook County is affected over and over and over again by the lateness of these tax bills," Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said. "It affects everyone's bottom line."

Schaumburg Township District Library Trustee Robert Frankel said that in the continuing poor economy, there are some taxing bodies running out of sufficient reserves to pay their bills. They then have to pay interest on tax anticipation warrants they use to meet bills while waiting for their money to arrive from the county.

Most of those present agreed it was within the Board of Review's power to take politics out of the process and meet the Aug. 1 billing deadline. They believe there's a built-in incentive to delay the tax bills so that they come out after Election Day in November, which should be overcome for the public good, they said.

"That's all we're asking," Lawson said. "Do what your job is."

Eric Herman, spokesman for Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan's office, said the Board of Review is backpedaling from a commitment it made to get through the appeal process within three months.

"We are committed to getting our work done by May 7," Herman said. "We have our people working overtime - literally."

But Guetzow said that even if the Cook County assessor compiled all the appeals by May 7, they wouldn't be received by the Board of Review until sometime in June due to procedural delays for such things as official publication.

A large number of appeals are anticipated this year because of the increasing disparity between assessed values and perceived market values, Guetzow said, referring to the decline in property values in recent years.

"The property tax is a good tax because it's not based on ability to pay but the value of the property," Guetzow said. "But it all starts with an accurate assessment," he said, suggesting that if the assessor did a better job, there would be fewer appeals.

In addition to asking the Board of Review to issue bills by Aug. 1, Lawson is also asking the U.S. Attorney to join the Cook County State's Attorney in its investigation of the Board of Review's procedures. He said he believes an independent agency should have a role when one county department is investigating another.

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