County to offer tax payment plans
KANKAKEE — Kankakee County is about to start offering payment plans to property taxpayers.
It is touted as a system that benefits both the taxpayer and the county, which will get tax money earlier.
Last week, county treasurer Nick Africano announced his office was starting the Choices Tax Payment Program. It will let tax payments be made daily, weekly, monthly or any other schedule taxpayers select.
Taxpayers can sign up for payment plans online or at the treasurer’s office.
With online payments plans, taxpayers can get alerts that payment dates are coming. They will be asked if it’s OK to take money from their accounts. If a taxpayer says it is not, the program will recalculate the remaining payments.
The only caveat is that half of a person’s taxes must be paid by the first installment date and the entire amount must be paid by the second one.
Africano said the first payments will be based on the previous year’s tax bill because the new numbers won’t be available until some time afterward. Once the revised bill is established, the program will recalculate payment amounts.
Credit card payments involve a 2.25 percent fee, down from 2.35 percent. Checks through online payment plans involve a $1 fee, Africano said.
“For those who are savvy electronically and (divide) their payments out, this will be phenomenal,” he said. “It will put money into the county’s coffers earlier. It’s a good thing for taxing bodies.”
Those who are not internet savvy can always get a payment plan through the office and make payments there, the treasurer said.
As a “real-life” example, he said, an elderly woman last year wanted to pay $1,200 of her $1,600 tax bill. But Africano said his office couldn’t accept that amount because it had no payment plan program.
The woman, whose property went up for tax sale, got it back by paying the whole $1,600, along with 18 percent interest.
If the county had the ability to take the $1,200, the woman only would have had to pay 18 percent interest on $400, Africano said.
“People get buried and never get the opportunity to go back to square one. We don’t want people out of their houses,” Africano said. “We want to work within the legal framework that we are bound by and keep people in their homes.”
The county is tentatively set to start the program in early January.
Africano presented the program’s details at last week’s meeting of the county board’s finance committee.
Board member Todd Sirois, R-St. Anne, praised the initiative.
“This is a fabulous program. I commend you and your office staff for taking this on. Not only will it help the taxpayer, the county will get money in our coffers rather than refuse it,” Sirois said.
Member George Washington, D-Kankakee, said the program was “a perfect example of us as public servants serving the people rather than working against the public.”
Member Ron Kinzinger, R-Bourbonnais, said he thought Africano was doing a good job, but he said his training was that “if you pay cash upfront, there should be some reward.”
“Money has value,” he said, adding that the county’s payment plan gave no incentive for paying early.
Africano said state law bars a government body from absorbing credit card fees, so a taxpayer must be charged. The county is trying to keep the fees as low as possible, he said.