Cook County Treasurer's Office - 5/8/2001
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas urged church leaders across Chicago to make sure properties such as churches, parsonages and related buildings remain exempt from property taxes and resumed work with a ministerial task force to "scrub" the tax-sale lists.
Pappas convened the task force to ensure that churches filed necessary forms to avoid having their property taxes sold before the annual sale of delinquent taxes, which is scheduled to begin on April 9. That tax sale will include delinquencies on unpaid 1999 Cook County real-estate taxes.
Under state law, churches that do not file annual paperwork with the Illinois Department of Revenue to keep their properties exempt from property taxes run the risk of having those properties appear on the tax-sale list. At the tax sale, tax buyers can purchase the resulting "delinquencies." If the sold taxes become liens and are not redeemed by the church, the tax buyer eventually can go to court and seek title to the property, thus taking it from the congregation.
"Redeeming taxes from tax buyers can run into thousands of dollars because of interest and fees built into the laws regarding tax sales," Pappas said. "This cooperative effort is a crucial step toward protecting the institutions that form the bedrock of our communities."
The task force, led by Dr. E. J. Jones, pastor emeritus of First Unity Baptist Church, 5129 S. Indiana in Chicago, will look for churches particularly in the African American community that currently owe property taxes. The task force also will advise church pastors and elders on exemption paperwork.
"Nobody wants to pay unnecessary costs or even lose property - especially a church - when it is absolutely avoidable," Jones said. "We are providing this service to keep churches from being lost due to taxes."
Since becoming Treasurer in December 1998, Pappas has worked closely with church leaders to protect their properties. Since then, the number of churches and church-owned properties on the initial delinquency list has tumbled more than two-fold to fewer than 400. With changes in church leadership and on church boards, there is an ongoing need for the educational effort to keep religious properties off the tax rolls.