SYCAMORE – DeKalb County property taxpayers will have the option to waive the late fees on the first installment of their 2019 property tax bill, but residents will need to fill out a form by Sept. 3 in order to qualify.
The DeKalb County Board approved the late fee waiver – which would allow residents an extra three months to pay the first half of their bill – unanimously Wednesday. Members said the reason they didn't waive fees for everyone instead of requiring a form is because the waiver is intended for those experiencing financial difficulty worsened by economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, residents won't need to provide proof that the burden is due to COVID-19 in the form.
"We do want to emphasize as much as possible that if people can pay on time, we would like them to pay on time," said Board Chair Mark Pietrowski.
How it works
The first installment of 2019 property taxes are still due June 5, at which time if the first payment isn't made, late fees will begin to accrue if the waiver hasn't been filled out. However, if residents have filled out the waiver by Sept. 3 and turn it in along with their full tax bill, the fees will be waived and only the original bill amount will be due.
If residents do not fill out the waiver by Sept. 3, and don't make the June 5 first installment payment, late fees of about 1.5% interest per month will accrue and they'll owe that plus the full bill Sept. 3.
"I agree it'd be better if we simply waived it as a community and admitted to ourselves that we’re not going to collect a large amount of revenue," said board member Tim Bagby. "But at the same time, this is really intended to be taken advantage of by people who are really stuck."
Late fees of about 1.5% interest per month are applied to property taxes, which are due on or before Sept. 3, 2020. DeKalb County splits property tax payments in half for residents who wish to pay incrementally instead of all at once.
Residents must obtain the form and indicate a current or potential financial need; however, Bagby said the forms are not yet up on the county website, but should be available online "in the next few days."
Board Member Tracy Jones, who voted for the waiver, voiced concern that county board action taken Wednesday was coming at the eleventh hour as the June 5 first installment due date looms.
"We’re just a little bit late, its already the 20th of May," Jones said. "We’re not that far away from these being due. Can we make sure that this gets prominent space on our website so that people are aware of what we’re doing? And obviously have ease of access to the form."
Bagby said the county still has financial obligations to meet as well, and that while the county collects around 13% of the tax bill, school districts receive the majority.
"The lion's share is for local schools, so if a bunch of people take advantage of this, it could impact funding for K-12," Bagby said. "With that in mind, no one's going to be calling the IRS on you if you waited until September to pay, but we would ask that people keep in mind there are a number of things behind that tax bill that need to happen in our community. We can't just turn everybody lose."
Editor's note: This article has been corrected with the proper deadline for the late fee form to be submitted, Sept. 3. The Daily Chronicle regrets the error.