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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Iroquois County waves Property Tax Late Fees in 2020 due to COVID-19

If you can’t afford to pay your property taxes in Iroquois County this year, at least you won’t get gigged a late fee.

The County Board meeting in a special session Tuesday decided that when the property tax bills are due this summer, probably sometime in early June, if you miss the deadline you won’t have to pay a penalty on top of catching up on what you owe.

The bills haven’t gone out yet, but both the county and the state recognize many people in Illinois, adversely affected financially by the Corona-19 epidemic, are strapped for cash; so if you have to be late on the first installment, the county won’t ding you a fine.

There are some ramifications for local governments, though, because if they can’t collect the taxes due, they may not have the money to pay their own bills.  

As of May 1st, almost all cities, towns, and villages in Illinois have started their new fiscal year.  By law they have to publish their next year’s budget by the end of the first quarter.  However, they are going to have to come up with a budget this year without having any real solid indicators just how much less they will be getting in tax revenue or knowing how much less they’ll be able to spend.  

For the next fiscal year, it is almost guaranteed that there will be less money from sales taxes, gaming revenues and other cash-generating fees, and that may mean deep cuts in budgets.  Iroquois County is already talking about a 15% reduction in all department budgets, but doesn’t have to make those decisions for a few weeks.  And many villages’ finance committees haven’t been able to meet face-to-face because of the health restrictions.  

The State also needs a new budget soon, but concern about the virus has kept the legislature from meeting in session, so that budget may be late and is sure to be rushed.  Sessions for this week were canceled in the House of Representatives, and less time means more pressure.

The biggest income producer for the state, counties, towns, and school districts is property taxes, and if they aren’t collected they can’t be shared.  Some entities may have a little excess money socked away in savings or CDs, but by law it is rare that governments can tax for more than they plan to spend, so there’s not much in any rainy-day accounts for counties and towns.  

The State of Illinois has been millions and millions of dollars in debt and deficit for years and years, so broke its credit rating is in the dumps.  

Those problems won’t be solved easily, but at least individual taxpayers in Iroquois County will get a small concession right now: if you can’t pay your property taxes on time this summer, you won’t have to pay a fine for finding yourself in a sad situation. 

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