The McHenry County Board voted Thursday morning to waive late fees and interest on the second installment of this year's property taxes for 90 days.
After much discussion over two competing proposals – a 45-day waiver or a 90-day one – board members voted, 22-1, to give county residents 90 days past the Sept. 15 deadline to pay the second installment of property taxes without penalty.
County Board Chairman Jack Franks said Thursday he didn't think that a 45-day waiver would have been enough of a reprieve for taxpayers.
"When it comes to helping our taxpayers, especially as they are getting battered by COVID-19, it's important to follow the advice we all heard as children – let's do it right the first time," Franks said.
Board member John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, who proposed the initial 45-day waiver, wrote in a statement Thursday that he had suggested a shorter waiver so as not to disrupt the County Treasurer's timeline too drastically, but was happy that the board was able to come to an agreement.
"We all felt the need to help the people of McHenry County most affected by the COVID shutdown," he said in the statement.
The sole no vote Thursday morning came from board member Mary T. McCann, R-Woodstock, who said she didn't appreciate the "last-minute decision" to change the proposed waiver to 90 days.
"If we were going to do this, we should have thought this out, there should have been a plan," McCann said in an interview Thursday evening. "I don't have any regrets. I take my vote seriously."
The first installment of property tax bills, which were mailed out in the spring, will still be due on Sept. 15 after a 90-day waiver was passed earlier this year allowing residents to pay that installment anytime between the original June 15 due date and Sept. 15.
Making the distinction between the first installment due dates and the second installment's will be very important, board member Carolyn Schofield said during Thursday's meeting. She was concerned taxpayers might think the new waiver also applied to the first installment, which it does not.
Late penalties on the first installment will kick in after Sept. 15 at a rate of 1.5% each month and will increase every 30 days until the date of tax sale, according to the McHenry County Treasurer's website.
Residents who pay the first installment of tax bills past Sept. 15 will be subject to retroactive late fees from the original June 15 deadline, which currently are 6% of the total bill, County Treasurer Glenda Miller said Thursday.
With this new ordinance, the second installment of property tax bills can now be paid anytime up until Dec. 15 without penalty, according to the resolution.
The waiver only applies to businesses and homeowners who pay their property taxes directly to the county and does not apply to residents who pay their taxes monthly through an escrow account.
Of the 33% of the county's property owners who do not use an escrow account, less than 2% made use of the waiver passed for the first installment of tax bills back in April, Miller said.
In a news release sent out Thursday, Franks encouraged residents who are able to pay their second installment on time to do so to ensure that taxing bodies such as schools and first responders are adequately funded.