Written by, Daily Herald – Mick Zawislak, 5/12/20
Lake County taxpayers can defer half their property tax payments for 60 days under a measure approved Tuesday to provide residents with some economic breathing room.
And in a significant change over what was being considered, a proposed requirement that residents show a need for the deferral was struck by the Lake County Board, meaning the relief will be more widely available.
As recently as Friday, residents would have to prove they’d been laid off or operated a business shut down as nonessential and hadn’t received any federal stimulus money.
“There’s no one who has been unscathed by what we’re living through,” said board member Ann Maine of Lincolnshire, who introduced an amendment to eliminate the requirement. “We need to do everything we can for everyone.”
Board member Mike Rummel of Lake Forest agreed the “arbitrary criteria” in the original version should be struck.
“How do we know who’s suffering?” he asked.
Though not a reprieve from paying taxes or past due penalties, the modified measure approved unanimously Tuesday is intended to help those suffering financially from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the measure, half the amount of the first installment of property taxes due by June 8 is extended to Aug. 7, and half the amount of the second installment is extended from Sept. 8 to Nov. 9.
No interest penalty would be charged if all property taxes owed are paid in full by the due dates.
“This is just one very small thing we can do,” board member Paul Frank of Highland Park said Tuesday to start a 90-minute discussion of the deferral ordinance. “We have an opportunity to do more,” he added.
As chairman of the board’s financial and administrative committee, Frank oversaw hours of debate and discussion on the topic during multiple sessions the past several weeks.
Ultimately, the committee learned a 60-day deferral was the board’s only available legal option regarding property relief.
But it came with a number of questions, hurdles and uncertainties, including the inability to get the word out to all who need to know about the application process and being able to notify them if they qualified before the June 1 deadline.
Treasurer Holly Kim said her office would be unable to distribute four bills, known as coupons, to qualified taxpayers resulting in “mass confusion” about due dates and amounts of taxes owed.
Kim said the new measure will create challenges because tax bills already have been prepared and mailed, but dropping the application requirement will help.
Guidelines for payments under the new ordinance will be issued shortly and property owners are expected to be notified in about two weeks.
Taxpayers may experience longer than usual wait times as a result of the late change, Kim said.
Updates will be available at www.lakecountytreasurer.info and on the office’s Facebook page.