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By Devin Rose
Property tax bills in Cook County mailed out by the end of this month will have a due date of Aug. 1 — the earliest due date in 34 years.
State law calls for the second installment of property taxes to be due on that date, but that has been honored "mostly in the breach," said Ali ElSaffar, Oak Park Township assessor. The last time they were due that early was in 1978. The first installment is due in early March.
The dates have been pushed back — as late as Dec. 13 in 2010 — because of back-ups with tax appeals, said ElSaffar, who is also the president of the county's Township Assessors Association.
He said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios have really tried to speed up the tax appeals process since they were elected in 2010. The County Board of Review and assessor are responsible for hearing the appeals, and ElSaffar said the board was done before the end of April this year.
"I know they really seem determined to keep this going," he said of the earlier due date. Last year's second installments were due Nov. 1.
The earlier due date "can be kind of a rude awakening," he said.
Many people who own homes pay monthly mortgages with their tax bills rolled into those payments. Taxpayers who might otherwise not be as financially-disciplined are forced to set money aside that the mortgage company then puts toward the tax bills twice a year, ElSaffar said. For those who don't pay through the company, it can be hard to foot a bill on Aug. 1 that was due later in the fall in previous years.
Taxing districts that depend heavily on property taxes may also have to borrow money while they wait for the bills to come out, ElSaffar said, though that's not happening very much in Oak Park.
The number of appeals varies each year depending on how many properties are being reassessed. The south suburbs, which include Oak Park and River Forest because they are below the North Avenue dividing line, have the smallest number of properties. That makes it easier to finish appeals than in Chicago, which should have more appeals next year because it's being reassessed this year.