Fearing the late collection of the property tax would hit the budgets of libraries, villages and schools, Cook County CEO Toni Preckwinkle offered local tax authorities up to $ 300 million in interest-free loans in July to ensure their survival through the final months of 2022 .

However, of the roughly 500 local government bodies in the suburbs that county officials say are eligible for the scheme, only 49 have applied, with a total request of $ 104 million, according to the county’s open enrollment request.

Twenty-one cities, towns and villages applied for help. The same was true of 13 park districts, 7 fire districts, 5 library districts and 3 school districts.

The biggest requests from the village of Dolton were $ 11 million. The smallest, Robbins Park District, was $ 100,085. Tax jurisdictions in the City of Chicago were not eligible.

Preckwinkle announced the loan program as a way to help taxed neighborhoods bridge the monthly delay in receiving property tax revenues. Bills normally due by August 1 have still not been sent, thanks to an argument between Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office and the County Audit Board, which hears appeals for a property tax appraisal.

While Preckwinkle has promised bills will be released before the end of the year so that individuals can still “fully benefit from federal, state and local tax deductions” from federal income taxes in 2022, districts that depend on these revenues have been presented with a cash flow problem. The county said it was prepared to lend a total of $ 500 million to the tax districts, interest-free, to help.

To qualify, districts had to have less than 120 days of cash on hand and a bond rating lower than Cook County (A2 from Moody’s, A + from S&P, and AA- from Fitch).

A county spokesman said not all of the 49 who applied had met the program’s eligibility criteria, and some applications were still pending. So far, six applicants have received funding.

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Ted Nelson, a spokesman for the County Office of Finance, wrote in part about low participation in increasing income.

“Based on our aid efforts, a combination of federal aid money, larger-than-expected distributions (personal property replacement tax), and an increase in sales tax revenues due to inflation, all of this contributed to better-than-expected cash on hand,” he said. in e-mail. “In addition, many local tax jurisdictions are quite comfortable taking out their own loans.”

Despite the low level of participation, Nelson said the county believes the program is worth it. “These local tax districts will be able to continue to provide essential services to residents without fear that they will not have enough cash to pay for it. This moment of respite is so important for local governments and we are glad that we (can) provide this financial aid ”.

The vast majority of applicants live in the western, south-western and southern suburbs. Some areas had multiple tax authorities requesting loans: for example, Calumet City, Calumet Memorial Park District, its library, 157 school district, and the city government itself applied for loans of $ 13.8 million. In several areas, the village and its park district have applied: Dolton for a total of $ 12.2 million, Bridgeview for a total of $ 5.6 million, and Berwyn for a total of $ 10.7 million.

Kristi DeLaurentiis, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, said she had yet to receive a response from the tax districts her organization represents, but told the Tribune she was “a bit surprised that there weren’t as many requests as expected ”.

She praised the county for launching the program and encouraged mayors and managers to apply, but did not believe that the low level of interest is due to local communities not needing help. This is “not because communities are rich in cash, especially in the southern suburbs,” where bedrooms generate less revenue from sales taxes, and where many towns and villages only collect a fraction of their property taxes.

Many communities kept their belts tight during COVID-19, and “because so many communities have adopted such a conservative approach, they may have sufficient funds to survive them,” and they were not eligible, she added.

The county estimated the loan program would cost $ 5 million out of pocket. With fewer takers, “we anticipate the loan will cost the county less than the originally reported $ 5 million,” said Nelson. “The final cost to the county will be relatively small, but the benefits to places like Dolton and Robbins will be huge.”

The city of Berwyn and the North Berwyn Park District also applied for loans: Berwyn for $ 10.4 million and Park District for $ 300,000. The City of Blue Island applied for $ 2 million and the library fund for $ 400,000. Hazelcrest ($ 6 million), Park Forest ($ 4 million), Oak Lawn ($ 3 million), and Lansing ($ 2.8 million).

The maximum loan is to cover the four-month revenue gap. Those with the least cash on hand – 60 days or less – will receive the full loan amount. Those with 61 to 90 days on hand will get 75% of the maximum loan amount and those with 91-120 days on hand will get 50%.

The county has partnered with a private lender, PNC Bank, to lend money to suburban agencies so they don’t have to incur short-term debt with interest.

To pay off the loan, each local tax jurisdiction would be required to instruct the Cook County treasurer to seize the first dollars that the jurisdiction is to receive from the second installment of property tax revenue and hand them over to Cook County.

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