1st Issue Shows Low Property Tax Collection Rates Harm Minority South Suburbs by Curtailing Government Services and Fueling Higher Tax Rates
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas on Wednesday released the first issue of a new periodic newsletter highlighting property tax issues unearthed by her Research Team.
The first issue of the "Pappas Portal" analyzes property tax collection rates for the tax year 2021 bills that were due Dec. 30. The analysis found that an overall high collection rate of 96% across the county masks startlingly low collection rates in many predominantly minority, lower-income south suburbs.
Those low collection rates make it difficult and, in some cases, impossible to deliver vital services. They also place pressure on public officials to increase their tax levies — the amount they seek to collect in property taxes each year. When levies go up in the south suburbs, the already very high tax rates increase further.
The worst collection rate was in Ford Heights, where just 29.3% of the total billed had been collected 25 days after the payment deadline. Ford Heights for years has not had a police force for lack of adequate funding.
Collection rates were about 52%, or lower, in three other south suburbs: Robbins, Harvey and Phoenix. In Robbins, longtime financial struggles contributed significantly to 23 water main breaks in 2022.
Another key finding: The collection rate on vacant lots stood below 71%. There are wide swaths of vacant lands in the south suburbs and on the city’s South and West Sides — partly explaining why collection rates are low in those places.
"Many south suburbs are caught in a downward financial spiral, in no small part due to their low property tax collection rates," Pappas said. "Much more needs to be done to return vacant lands to productive use, and funding mechanisms other than the property tax should be considered to help pay for vital government services, particularly education. Without help, the economic struggles of the "Southland" will continue to deteriorate."
Further Pappas Portal issues will include analyses, observations and insights from the Research Team. To receive each Pappas Portal issue when it’s published, sign up here.