Few Chicago residents apply for property tax relief

March 17, 2010 5:08:02 PM PDT
Thousands of property owners in Chicago have money coming their way and may not even know it.

Time is running out to cash in on a program in Chicago that offers rebates to help off set the rising cost of property taxes. To get the rebate, you have to apply for it.

The clerks at the City Hall Tax Assistance Center were not busy enough Wednesday afternoon as only a few more homeowners applied for refunds offered by the mayor's property tax relief program.

"I've read about it. I knew it was here to just come down and apply," said Barbara Sudzus, Chicago homeowner.

"I'll get some sort of tax rebate from the parking meter sale," said Carla Gomez, Chicago homeowner.

In the 2010 city budget, Mayor Daley set aside $35 million for property tax relief. The money came from the reserve fund set up after the parking meters sale. City homeowners who make less than $200,000, depending on how much their tax bills increased, may qualify for a refunds between $25 and $200.

But ABC7 has learned that with the application deadline on March 31, only 20,000 homeowners out of an estimated 200,000 eligible have applied for refunds.

"There's still a lot of money available and what we wanted to do is make sure everybody that we thought would be eligible for the program, that there would be money available for them," said Myer Blank, Chicago Tax Assistance Center.

Property taxes caused Nora Millbrooks's mortgage to increase. Millbrooks lives in low-income West Garfield Park which, according to the assessor's office had some of the biggest property tax increases.

"You're the first person telling me that I can get a rebate from the taxes," said Millbrooks.

Willie Johnson hadn't heard of it either and he says skyrocketing property taxes are part of the reason his building is in foreclosure.

"I'm trying to get my mortgage modified," said Johnson.

The application, which takes about five minutes to complete, only requires a homeowner to produce an ID card and copy of the 2008 property tax second installment. The city has bought some advertising for the program that so far has paid out only $700,000, less than 3 percent of what the mayor says he's willing to spend.

Daley was very excited about the program when he announced it last fall. He hoped it would help him demonstrate how people benefited from the controversial parking meter sale.