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Cook County tax bills to be mailed weeks after election

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by John Byrne

Cook County property tax bills won't be out until around Thanksgiving, meaning voters won't have sticker shock to fuel their anger toward politicians when they head to the polls Nov. 2.

Bills will be mailed around Nov. 22, Treasurer Maria Pappas estimated Tuesday. That's nearly a full month later than last year, when second installment bills were sent Oct. 28. Any increase in property tax will be included in the bill, along with the second half of the amount shown in the first installment mailing earlier this year.

The timing of the bills has been a political football for months. Retiring Assessor James Houlihan has accused Joseph Berrios, the tax appeals board member running to succeed him, of slowing the appeals process intentionally to avoid angering voters before Election Day.

Berrios, who is being challenged in the race for assessor by independent candidate and Houlihan ally Forrest Claypool, counters that Houlihan's office dropped the ball in completing assessments on time. And Berrios believes a new assessment standard that was championed by Houlihan and Claypool will drive up homeowners' bills. "I would love for (the bills) to go out before the election," Berrios said.

None of that matters to Blue Island Mayor Donald Peloquin. With income tax payments from the state to the south suburban city months in arrears, Peloquin said he desperately needs Blue Island's share of county property tax proceeds so he can make the suburb's payroll through the end of the year.

If property owners have until Dec. 22 to make payments — as the county now contemplates — Peloquin said he and officials in other small cash-strapped towns will be forced to try to get loans from increasingly tight-fisted area banks.

"I don't care whose fault it is," said Peloquin, adding that Blue Island's cash flow problems have never been this bad in his 26 years as mayor. "They need to set all that aside and find a way to get those checks out, because we're in big trouble here."

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