Cook County to Activate 2011 to 2014 Tax Rate Objections and Send Notices to Taxing Agencies Electronically
In the next few weeks, Cook County school districts and other taxing agencies will be receiving notices from the State’s Attorney’s Office that the tax rate objection complaints for the 2011 to 2014 tax years are being activated. For the first time, these notices will be sent electronically to the e-mail addresses of taxing agencies that are on record with the Cook County Clerk’s Office for tax levy purposes. Districts will receive these notices only if an objection has been filed against their levies. The notices will indicate that there is an initial court status hearing scheduled for May 20.
The obvious question is why are such old cases only now being activated? In the other Illinois counties, tax rate objections are activated and given an initial status hearing within a few months of being filed, just like all other civil complaints. Although the rules of the Cook County Circuit Court state that tax rate objections are to be given an initial status hearing “at an appropriate time . . . considering the demands [of the court’s] calendar,” there is a clear backlog in Cook County. Several factors contribute to this backlog. First, unlike other counties, Cook County Circuit Court handles thousands of tax cases every year. Second, several high-profile rate objections, including school district working cash fund bonds and several objections to the County’s levy, experienced protracted litigated. Finally, the common procedure has been to pay refunds on a tax year only when every objection against every taxing agency has been resolved. Combined with the longstanding court practice of not opening new tax years until most of the old tax years are resolved, this method of handling rate objections has contributed to the backlog.
When the last group of tax rate objection complaints was opened in 2013, paper copies of the notices were sent to school districts and other taxing agencies by U.S. Mail. We have been informed that this time the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office will be sending the notices to the taxing agency e-mail address on file with the Cook County Clerk’s Office. It is hoped that this will streamline the process and save both time and paper. It should also make it much easier for school districts to forward the notices to their attorneys.
Please be sure to watch for this notice so that you can request the district’s attorneys file an appearance. For questions about tax rate objections, please contact the authors of this alert or any Franczek attorney.