Small change, warm hearts

Treasury worker saves homeowner’s son the trouble of going to office to pay 63 cents.

Raphael Smith, pictured with his mother.

Raphael Smith (right), pictured with his mother.


Life can change on a dime.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of 63 cents.

That was all.

Spare change. Less than a dollar.

No big bling.

But to Raphael Smith, 69, it was all a matter of doing the right thing for his beloved 98-year-old mother.

Let’s back up.

Several weeks ago, Smith called the office of Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas to check on the current status of his mother’s Cook County property tax status.

“Mom, temporarily in a nursing home now, owns a home on the Far South Side,” said Smith, who wanted to make sure her property tax payments were current. They weren’t; his mother still owed 63 cents on her 2020 property tax bill despite her senior discount and exemptions.

Raphael Smith’s mother owed a paltry 63 cents on her 2020 property tax bill.

Raphael Smith’s mother owed a paltry 63 cents on her 2020 property tax bill.


“My mother is old-school, rounds everything off in even numbers,” chuckled Smith, whose mom lives in a tidy home in the Pill Hill neighborhood near 92nd Street.

So, on Nov. 30, Smith called a Cook County customer service agent who informed him the mini amount due could increase monthly.

“Can I put the 63 cents on my own credit card?” Smith asked. “It was hard for Mom —especially in bad weather — to take the CTA downtown to pay her property tax bill in person.”

That’s when the Christmas spirit sprung.

“‘Don’t worry about it. … I’m going to take care of it!’” the agent told Smith.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Smith, who claims the agent added: “‘Mr. Smith. Have a great day! And tell your mother I hope she gets better.”

“It was really nice of him to do … really courteous,” Smith said. “You don’t find too many people to do that when you make debt inquiries.”

So Sneed contacted the agent, whose first name is Paul, but who requested his last name not be used.

“I just happened to jump in on his call that day,” the agent said. “It made no sense for them to come downtown because it is not always easy for the elderly.

“So I decided to make the 63 cents go away,” he said. How? “I had a little cash in my personal change drawer and scraped up a few coins. Simple. So it was paid then and there. This lady always paid her property taxes, and her son sounded like a wonderful guy.”

Ka-ching! Mrs. Smith was indeed from the old school when it came to paying her property taxes: She paid the first 2021 tax installment of $64.70 with a check for $65 and a $50 check for her second installment bill of $49.30.

The kicker? Ho ho ho!

“We actually now owe Mrs. Smith 96 cents!” said a treasurer’s office spokesman.

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