URBANA — If you paid your property taxes on time, but the Champaign County treasurer’s office doesn’t appear to have your payment, you’re not alone.
The treasurer’s office is running behind on processing some payments, and its system is automatically posting delinquent penalties even for some payments that were made on time.
After seeing a string of social media comments about this issue, Faith Johnson of Champaign said her husband checked Tuesday to see if their own payment — made on time June 1 — had been recorded.
Sure enough, she said, their payment hadn’t been recorded, “and there’s a late fee on it.”
County Treasurer Marisol Hughes and Chief Deputy Treasurer Alejandra Aguero said the treasurer’s office is getting a lot of calls from taxpayers, and callers are being assured the late penalty will be removed for all payments that were made by the due date, which was June 1 for the first of two installments.
“Once we process the payment, the system automatically updates itself and the late fee goes away,” Aguero said.
She and Hughes also want taxpayers to know they are working short-staffed and are running two weeks behind on getting tax payments processed.
“We’re under a lot of stress right now,” Hughes said.
County Board Finance Chairman Jim Goss said he’s also been getting a lot of calls from taxpayers about this issue.
“I don’t have any idea exactly what’s going on, but I’m being inundated with constituents who are telling me the same thing,” he said.
Goss said he did speak to the treasurer’s office last Thursday, “and they said they were behind,” he said. “Whether it’s a credible excuse or not, they’re behind and trying to catch up.”
Part of the issue is the system itself, according to Hughes.
The county treasurer’s office has relationships with two vendors, one that processes the tax collections and one that posts them, and what would work best would be one system that would do both, she and Aguero said.
This is a system that was inherited by Hughes, who was appointed treasurer three months ago after the resignation of former county treasurer Laurel Prussing. The state’s pandemic lockdown began two weeks after Hughes took office.
Another big issue has been that some taxpayers who voluntarily sign up for the option of having their tax payments automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts don’t let the treasurer’s office know when they’ve sold their properties.
And for anyone who assumes the treasurer’s office would know a property has been sold, “there is no way for us to know,” Aguero said.
In those cases, the payments are still automatically withdrawn from the accounts of the sellers, the buyers also wind up paying, and the treasurer’s office has to sort it all out, she said.
This has affected some taxpayers who haven’t worked in recent months due to pandemic-related job losses, “and now we’ve taken their funds,” Aguero said.
“I’m really concerned about this, and we’re trying to help them as much as we can,” she said.
This is the second year in a row for property tax issues in Champaign County. Last year, the tax billing and collection process was delayed by a month because the Illinois Department of Revenue ran behind on issuing the county a final multiplier.
Johnson said even if late penalties won’t ultimately be charged for those taxpayers who paid on time this year, she has concerns about the older taxpayers who are left to worry about the status of their payments and are fearful that their taxes could wind up being sold in the county’s delinquent tax sale.
If there are technology issues in the treasurer’s office, Johnson said, she doesn’t understand how they can go unresolved in a university community where technology expertise is readily available.
John Bambenek, a Champaign business owner, said he paid his taxes in late May, but his taxes are also showing up unpaid and a late penalty of about $75 has been assessed.
He checked the status of his own tax payment because he was in the process of refinancing his house, he said.
The county still has months to sort out who paid and who didn’t before beginning the process of this year’s delinquent tax sale, Bambenek said. But for people who are selling or refinancing their homes now, appearing to have unpaid property taxes is a real problem.
People hate paying property taxes anyway, and issues connected to payments they make on time, plus the pandemic, aren’t helping, Bambenek said.
“I think people are already in bad moods, and this makes it worse,” he said.
Whether your property taxes are escrowed and a bank makes the payments or you pay your taxes yourself, you can check the status of your payment at the treasurer’s office by entering your street address or property parcel number on this website: champaignil.devnetwedge.com.
You can see the amount billed, amount paid, when it was paid and whether there was a penalty assessed.