Preckwinkle offers plan to delay fees on late property tax bills

Property taxes are due in early August, but the plan would waive fees for two months until October.

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled a plan Wednesday that would waive two months of late fees for property tax payments.

Sun-Times file photo

Homeowners would get a two-month waiver of fees on late property tax bills, under a plan unveiled Wednesday by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“These are incredibly difficult times for our residents and this measure creates much-needed breathing room for Cook County property owners,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “With residents and businesses facing so many challenges and difficulties because of the coronavirus, waiving late fees on property taxes is the right thing to do right now. This can keep residents in their homes and allow businesses much needed time to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The 2019 second installment of property taxes are due Aug. 3, but under the plan, homeowners could wait to pay until Oct. 1, without fear of fees. Typically, homeowners are charged a fee of 1.5% of the total taxes owed for every month the taxes are late arriving at the Cook County treasurer’s office.

Late last month, Treasurer Maria Pappas sent Preckwinkle a letter, urging the fee waiver.

“In the end, we must balance government need for revenue against home owner ability to pay the taxes that generate the revenue,” Pappas wrote. “Mindful that there is no perfect solution in these times, I strongly urge you to use your executive authority to grant a two-month waiver of interest on late payments for the coming second installment.”

On Wednesday, Pappas scheduled her own event to publicize the proposal.

“It’s not about waiving the interest,” she said. “It’s about being able to juggle the money. If somebody doesn’t have $10,000 on Aug. 1, It gives them until Oct. 1 to get it together.”

Pappas said she expects her office to collect, in total, about $7 billion for second-installment property taxes.

The plan, which would come in the form of an ordinance, is expected to be presented at the next full meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners scheduled for May 21, according to Preckwinkle’s office.

“It is our hope this measure can help alleviate some of the financial strain and anxiety being experienced by residents and businesses, while balancing the fiscal needs of our underlying taxing districts,” Preckwinkle said.

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