A number of factors have caused Cook County property tax bills to be delayed, resulting in a due date extension for taxpayers. Controversy over the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Exemption and whether County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office gave some seniors a tax break who may not have qualified, combined with COVID-19 may be responsible for the delay.
Senior Assessment Freeze Exemptions: Errors Under the Microscope
A Chicago Sun-Times report published on June 27 stated that the County Assessor’s Office incorrectly gave property tax exemptions to people who did not qualify for them, unfairly shifting the tax burden to other residential and commercial property owners. In some cases, exemptions were issued to businesses (which are not eligible) and assessments were frozen based on the value of buildings that had been torn down. Additionally, Kaegi said a computer programming glitch was responsible for giving some tax breaks to seniors who had received refunds on taxes they had paid.
In July, Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas sent a letter to Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi asking him to certify that his office reviewed and corrected all 2020 installment data. They indicated that if Kaegi failed to sign the document, they would not move forward with issuing tax bills. According to numerous reports, Kaegi refused to sign. He stated that it was mandatory for them to get the tax bills out.
Three agencies are responsible for deciding the amount of property taxes homeowners and businesses pay in Cook County. The Assessor’s Office, headed by Kaegi, determines the value of each property. Then Yarbrough’s office calculates each property owner’s fair share of taxes. Maria Pappa’s office then sends out the bills and collects the taxes.
The suspected errors in the Senior Freeze program have caused the Cook County property tax bills that were supposed to be sent out during the last week in July to be delayed. The bills are set to be mailed in late August instead. The due date has been pushed out to Oct 1, 2021.
It is important that properties in Cook County are accurately assessed, that excessive exemptions are not issued, and that any errors are promptly corrected. This ensures residential and commercial property owners are only paying their fair share.