Cook County officials announced Wednesday that second-installment property tax bills are expected to be mailed on time this year for this first time in more than three decades—a move that could save municipalities and school districts milions of dollars.
For , it could mean another round of tax anticipation warrants won't be necessary this fall.
School districts rely almost solely on property tax revenues for their month-to-month operations. In Cook County, where tax bills haven't been on time since 1978, many districts have been forced to use on short-term borrowing to cover their expenses.
This year, however, tax bills are scheduled to hit mailboxes by July 2, and will be due Aug. 1.
“For over 30 years the County has mailed second-installment bills late and it’s been embarrassing, but today we’re here to announce that this practice will end,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “The continued delay in getting the tax bills out on time has repeatedly hurt school districts, library districts, park districts, and taxpayers. This is another significant example of the collaborative work we’ve undertaken at Cook County and evidence that we continue to take positive steps forward.”
The timely mailing could save local taxing districts as much as $20 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“We’re pleased that taxing districts, like schools and municipalities, will get their money sooner. They will not have to stretch to borrow, or pay interest on such loans,” Cook County Clerk David Orr said. “Saving money for the taxing districts ultimately helps their taxpayers.”
District 113A has been reliant on tax anticipation warrants to cover its expenses since October 2009 due to lack of fund balances. The district first borrowed $5.8 million, and then another $6.6 million in May 2010.
Facing delayed property tax revenue from Cook County later that year—bills were not sent out until Nov. 10—the District 113A school board agreed to move forward with another round of borrowing in January 2011.
After District 113A was unable to secure a bank to purchase $5.5 million in TAWs, the district's financial organizers orchestrated an intergovernmental agreement with The deal , according to district officials.
District 210 in TAWs from District 113A in June 2011, . The debt is scheduled to be retired June 28.
At the time, representatives from PMA Financial Network said the latest TAWs could be the last for District 113A, which has steadily improved its financial standing over the course of two years.
According to District 113A's financial plan, which was approved by the Illinois State Board of Education in January, the district would need to issue $1 million or less in November, depending on the timing of Cook County tax receipts.
In light of the news that property tax bills will be on time, District 113A could avoid another round of borrowing, Interim Superintendent Robert Madonia said Tuesday.
"We don't know anything for certain yet, but we should start seeing revenue from the second-installment tax bills after August, which would potentially eliminate the need for tax anticipation warrants this fall," Madonia said.
Staff members from several Cook County agencies met earlier this year to develop a new, accelerated schedule that would restore timeliness to the property tax cycle.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios finished his initial property assessments 120 days earlier than usual. The Board of Review also considered more than 341,000 appeals faster than in years past.
For taxpayers, the on-time bills means having to budget for two payments due close together. However, officials said the return to the regular mailing schedule will benefit all Cook County taxing agencies and taxpayers in the long run.
“Residents want consistency and clarity in the property tax system," Commissioner Dan Patlak said. "Meeting the statutory requirement helps ensure that tax bills can be issued at the same time every year, unlike in prior years when a bill could be due in the summer, fall or around the holidays which disrupts household finances."
Lemont Township Assessor Ken Jacobowski said he's happy to see the county return to its regular schedule.
"Things have been improving steadily over the past two years," he said. "Ultimately this is how it's supposed to be, so I'm glad things are getting back on track."
Read more on the second-installment property tax bills at blog.cookcountygov.com.
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