A glitch in the county’s preparation of property tax bills means that checks won’t be due to the treasurer’s office until mid November at the earliest – though it’s possible the deadline could be pushed into December.
Taxpayers may have differing opinions on whether the delay is a blessing, but for the agencies that rely on this money to help pay for services to the public the sentiment is unanimous. Delaying revenue is costly.
The anticipated delay in the upcoming round of property tax payments means school districts, municipalities, parks and libraries will need enough cash on-hand to cover a month or two worth of expenses. Auditors often recommend that agencies have enough money in the bank to pay the bills for three months. Taxing bodies with that level of financial security are less likely to need short-term bank loans to cover a delay in tax revenue.
In Forest Park, the public school system responsible for grades K-8 should be able to weather the storm, according to Assistant Superintendent Ed Brophy.
“The only impact [the delay] could have is what we would make in interest earnings because we’d be receiving that revenue later,” Brophy said. “At this point, we have the reserves to operate without having to borrow. We can manage for a couple months.”
At the Park District of Forest Park, the ledgers are stronger than they’ve been in almost 20 years, Larry Piekarz, executive director, said. He expects to avoid taking out any loans or transferring money between funds.
“I’m pretty confident we’re in good shape,” Piekarz said.
The forecast isn’t as sunny for other taxing districts.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said he’s working with Forest Park’s finance director to “determine other sources of revenue.” Department budgets at village hall are already thin, said Gillian, so if the delay in tax receipts causes a problem, the municipality would be unlikely to make spending cuts. Borrowing isn’t guaranteed, he said, but it’s possible.
“Every community that I’m aware of, and every taxing agency, is in the same position,” Gillian said.
Proviso Township High School District 209 is most certainly going to have to borrow money to meet payroll and other routine expenses. Jim Popernik, chairman of a state-assembled panel called in to bring financial stability to the district, said short-term loans are the only option.
“Cash flow is a serious problem,” Popernik said. “You’ve got to pay your payroll and pay all your bills.”
Nikita Johnson, assistant superintendent of finance for District 209, said in an e-mailed response that she is monitoring cash flow “to determine if there will be a need to borrow.” In September, the district shuffled money from its education and working cash funds to meet expenses in other departments.
The reason for the delay in property tax bills, according to a spokeswoman for the Cook County Clerk, is that the assessor’s office neglected to apply a tax exemption to approximately 80,000 eligible homeowners during the initial calculation. Property tax bills molded by a multi-step process that begins with a review of property assessments, then goes to the assessor for exemption calculations before the clerk’s office sets the rate. The county treasurer is responsible for printing, mailing and collecting the bills.