By Chinta Strausberg
Flanked by deputies, city/state elected officials and clergy, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas on Monday, February 24 called on the Illinois General Assembly to allow financially strapped taxpayers four additional months to pay their delinquent property bills before the May 8, 2020 scavenger tax sale begins.
At a press conference in her downtown office Pappas reminded state lawmakers there are 57,515 property owners who have to pay $188.2 million before the annual tax sale. She said 10,900 homeowners stand to lose their homes.
According to Pappas, about 20,800 homeowners may be unaware of the tax sale because the U.S. Postal Service has returned their bills and notices. About 24,600 owe less than $1,000, and senior citizens own about 2,400 homes.
But, to meet the May 8th deadline, Pappas said more time is needed to “make the difference between losing a home and saving it,” and it all depends on the passage of SB3356, sponsored by Senator Elgie Sims, Jr. (D-17th) and co-sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Senator Laura Murphy (D-28th), Senators Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-24th) and Mattie Hunter (D-3rd).
The bill allows four additional months for property owners to pay their taxes.
“The proposed SB3356 bill amends the Property Tax Code, provides that a tax year may not be offered at a scavenger sale prior to the date of annual tax sale for that tax year. Provides that, for omitted assessments, a tax year may not be offered at a scavenger sale prior to the annual tax sale for that omitted assessments warrant year.
“The bill provides that, for the 2019 tax year and each tax year thereafter, all applications for judgment and order of sale for taxes and special assessments on delinquent properties shall be made within 365 days of the second installment due date. Effective immediately.”
Referring to the 57,515 property owners facing a May 8 scavenger date, Pappas said, “That is exactly 17,000 more than last year” at this time. Saying there are numerous problems facing the city like crime, school, ethical problems and those “beyond human imagination,” she said what matters to Cook County residents is their property.
Of the 57,515 notifications, 20,000 were returned in the mail. She said 10,900 homeowners stand to lose their property and they owe less than $1,000; 910 people on the list have failed to obtain their senior exemptions and 922 have not obtained their senior freezes.
Displaying a row of flags representing 87 communities, Pappas said those she invited to attend her press conference were from those areas. “Pass the bill,” her supporters began chanting.
Alderman Rod Sawyer (6th), who has 1,777 delinquent properties in his ward for a total tax due of $2,589,149.35, said he sent one of his constituents to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., where Pappas has established an outreach office. The hours are Tuesdays, 12 noon to 7 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sawyer said his constituent was in tears because her property was on the tax sale list scheduled for sale the next day, but when she went to PUSH she learned she was owed thousands of dollars “more than what she owed in tax sales and she ended up getting a refund and not being on the tax sale list,” Sawyer said.
Pappas said there is $79 million available waiting for property owners who may be owed money. “There are people on this tax sale list who are actually owed money. There is approximately $37million owed to people who erroneously forgot to claim either their own exemptions or their senior citizen freeze,” Pappas said.
Reaching out to churches and community organizations with this information, Pappas said, “These are the most vulnerable citizens in this county, and the numbers are getting worse. Last year this time, people on the tax sale list owed $125 million. This time, this year, people on the tax sale list are owed $188 million. Something is seriously wrong. People need an extra four months to pay.”
Pappas has also established an outreach post at the Abundant Life Community Center, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd., open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12 noon to 8 p.m.
There, Pappas has assigned a staffer to pull up tax information on property owners’ homes to check to see if they are entitled to senior citizen property tax exemptions and refunds.
Homeowners can avoid the tax sale by paying all delinquent taxes and interests before the sale begins on May 8.
To check your tax status or to make a payment, click on cookcountytreasurer.com then select “Avoid the Tax Sale.” You can search by address.
Participating in the press conference were former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, Senator Hilton, Representatives Marcus Evans, Jr. (D-33rd), Debbie Meyers-Martin (D-38th), Jawaharial Williams (D-10th) and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Dan Patiak.