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Local Editorials

Do away with property tax uncertainties

Illinois’ real estate tax system leaves a lot of people wondering.

Taxpayers wonder when they’ll receive their bills, how much they’ll owe, and when the payments are due.

Government officials wonder when they’ll receive their disbursements from county treasurers.

As of late last week, two area counties – Lee and Bureau – still had not sent out real estate tax bills for 2010 taxes payable in 2011. However, Lee County set a tentative due date of July 15 for the first tax installments and Sept. 9 for the second. Bureau’s first installment is due July 12, and the second is due Sept. 7.

We understand that the tax assessment, extension, protest and billing process is unwieldy.

However, the compressed time frame between the first and second installments puts a real bite on some household budgets. And the delay in receiving tax disbursements adds stress to local governmental finances, especially in hard times.

Nearby states have solved the problem. The due dates are established by law.

In Wisconsin, real estate tax bills are due Jan. 31 and July 31. In Iowa, the due dates are March 1 and Sept. 1. Indiana property tax installments are due May 10 and Nov. 10.

Notice the 6-month break between the first and second due dates. That gives taxpayers plenty of time every year to scrounge up money for the second installment.

Such is not the case in Illinois.

Ogle County residents are the luckiest Sauk Valley taxpayers. They will have 3 months between the first installment due date of Friday and the second installment due date of Sept. 2.

Whiteside’s first installment date this year is June 10, and the second is Sept. 2 – a week short of 3 months.

However, Carroll County taxpayers have only 2 months between July 1 and Sept. 1 installments. And taxpayers in the aforementioned Lee and Bureau counties have less than 2 months between payments.

The system just doesn’t work very well. There’s got to be a better way. Other states have figured it out. Why can’t Illinois?

We challenge county officials, governmental experts and policy wonks across the state to study Illinois’ real estate tax system, put forth ways to streamline the process, and propose a taxpayer-friendly payment schedule.

And we encourage lawmakers to put those reforms into legislation and push for its enactment.

That way, taxpayers and government officials won’t have to wonder anymore.

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