Participation in a property tax deferral program for seniors in DuPage County is expected to increase significantly this year.
County Treasurer Gwen Henry said at least 200 people have requested applications to participate in the Senior Real Estate Tax Deferral Program for the first time. County residents 65 and older with an annual household income that doesn't exceed $50,000 can qualify for the program that allows them to defer their property taxes until they sell their home.
"We do think there will be a substantial increase (in participation)," said Henry, adding that 376 seniors took advantage of the program last year.
Henry said more people are having a difficult time paying their property tax bills, which have continued to climb despite falling home values.
"For many of these seniors, they have lived in the same house for years and years," Henry said. "They paid very modest property taxes at the start, and now the tax bills have gotten high."
She said most of the DuPage seniors in the property tax deferral program make far less than $50,000 a year.
"They (seniors) are the ones who get hit the hardest because they've been here and their houses have appreciated a lot in value," Henry said. "But they can't eat the appreciation."
As part of the property tax deferral program, the state covers the debt with a 6 percent interest rate until the property taxes are repaid. The average amount deferred last year for DuPage seniors in the program was $4,067 per parcel, according to Henry.
There is no limit on the number of deferrals seniors can receive. Participants must reapply every year to show they still qualify.
Applications forms were mailed on Monday to last year's participants. The deadline to apply is March 1.
Property taxes are due in two equal installments. The first is due by June 1 and the second by Sept. 1.
In the meantime, Henry's office has been reaching out to area churches and other organizations to spread the word about the deferral program.
For details, visit dupageco.org/treasurer or call (630) 407-5900.