Editorial: Property taxes sure come hard and fast in Cook County

Property tax bills are expected in Cook County mailboxes in a few days. “Wait,” you’re likely thinking. “I just paid mine.”

Indeed you did. Due to a technical snafu for which no one ever admitted full responsibility, the second installment of the 2021 tax bill was more than 150 days late, arriving only in mid-November and coming due last Dec. 1. They were supposed to have been due last Aug. 1.

But, unlike for taxpayers who pay late and face fines when they do, there was no penalty on the taxing bodies for not getting their billing acts together. And now homeowners face a second whammy. Worse, many Cook County homeowners also are facing major increases in their bills following reassessments.

Simply put, your bill likely went up a lot even though you are still recovering from the last one.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has said that giving people an extra month to pay (it was supposed to be March 1, as in next week) was “the right thing to do.” The barest of minimums, we’d say.

Anyone who does not pay their taxes with their mortgages now is facing the need to pony up a second lump sum to Cook County without having had very long to recover from the last monster withdrawal from their bank accounts. We know many Chicagoans live paycheck to paycheck, and likely put little away last summer. So the timing of major expenses matters.

This mess is a reminder of just how egregious the delays were last year and how that should never be allowed to happen again, although we’ve heard no guarantees that we won’t be right back in the same place next year. So be prepared and put cash away on your own schedule.

Meanwhile, we suggest a law that imposes penalties for late billing that at least matches what the poor Cook County taxpayers have to pay when they come up short and late with their payments.

It’s the right thing to do. Surely Cook County can understand.

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