West Side homeowners now have easier access to property tax relief. During a press conference held Dec. 5, at the JLM Abundant Life Community Center, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd., in East Garfield Park, a gathering of pastors and elected officials announced that staffers from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office will be at the JLM center on Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 7 p.m., in order to help homeowners apply for missing senior citizen property tax exemptions, search for available refunds and learn how to deal with delinquent property taxes. 

“We have $79 million sitting in my office in double payments and we have $44 million in my office of unclaimed exemptions,” said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. “Since April, we’ve given back $20 million and we’re expanding this to the West Side. For all I know, there’s another $20 million here.” 

The new property tax relief initiative is the result of a collaboration between Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and his Rainbow PUSH organization, and the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus. 

Jackson said during the press conference that his family was owed $4,000 in refunds that they didn’t apply for. Staffers with the treasurer’s office will be at his Rainbow Push headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., on Tuesdays, noon to 7 p.m., and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

“We didn’t understand the exemption,” he said. “So you may be literate or illiterate. Many seniors do not realize they’re owed money.” 

Rev. Johnny Miller, the pastor of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and executive director of the JLM center, said that he was also owed refunds that he didn’t know about. 

“We’re saying, ‘Come and get it, it’s real,'” Miller said. “I’m going to the bank to cash my check when I leave here. This is real. Let’s make it happen.”

Ald. Jason Ervin, who chairs the black caucus and has offices in the center, said that he’ll take pleasure “just to see seniors come into this building and find out they’re owed money in situations where they were almost crying about potentially losing their home.” 

“We want to make certain our residents have their fair share,” said Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. “This is not pomp and circumstance. This is because we want to help people.” 

Other West Side alderman, including Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), have also expressed support for the initiative, officials with the Cook County Treasurer’s Office said, adding that the West Side program is a pilot initiative. 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com  

First installment property tax bills now available for download

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas announced on Dec. 4 that next year's first installment property tax bills are now available on her website: cookcountytreasurer.com. The tax bills are due on March 3, 2020.

The first installment taxes are 55 percent of last year's total tax, Pappas said in a statement, before advising property owners to consult with tax professionals about possible tax deductions.

"By knowing now what the tax bill is, homeowners can decide whether to pay next year's taxes before December 31," Pappas said.

Taxpayers can look up their tax bills on cookcountytreasurer.com, with their 14-digit Property Index Number (PIN). To make a payment select the blue box that says "Pay Online for Free" and enter your address or PIN. There is no fee if you make a payment from your bank account, Pappas explained, adding that her office takes partial payments.

"However, all taxes must be paid by the due date to avoid the interest charge of 1.5 percent per month mandated by Illinois law," the treasurer's office explained.