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updated: 1/24/2012 1:45 PM

State Senate hopeful explains delayed tax payments

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  • Cliff Surges

      Cliff Surges

  • Karen McConnaughay

      Karen McConnaughay

 
 

Cliff Surges, a Republican candidate for the new 33rd state Senate District, has intentionally skipped the first installment on his property tax bill for at least nine years, but he says it was a business decision.

The former Gilberts trustee released a statement Monday explaining the rationale behind his decision, but his opponent in the GOP primary is calling the payment plan "outrageous."

Surges has paid his bill in full, including penalties incurred from the late payments, each year on record, but in 2008 the property nearly went to a tax sale due to late payments.

Of the past nine years, Surges has skipped the June 1 installment each year and has been late on six of the nine Sept. 1 payments, according to Kane County records.

Surges says he has worked with his bank and will pay all future property tax installments through escrow, but his opponent, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay, is questioning why he waited until the election season.

"Only now that he is a candidate for office has he decided to follow the rules and make the simple change he could have made 11 years ago," McConnaughay said.

Tax records indicate Surges has paid penalties from $137 up to $332, when he was 51 days late on his 2008 taxes.

Surges, who owns an American Family Insurance franchise, said the plan to skip the June 1 installment and pay the year's total with a fee was financially beneficial for him.

"When you escrow, they take out more than is needed," said his campaign manager, Scott Webb. "He chose not to escrow, so that way he doesn't pay more into an escrow account than he needs to."

The best cash flow months for Surges' business are typically August and September, and that is why he chooses to pay the taxes in full in the fall, he said.

"His business is dependent upon commercial contracts," Webb said. "This was a business decision."

In September 2008, a process to put the home into a tax sale was started, but Surges made his payment before the sale occurred, according to Webb.

McConnaughay said the move shows a "wanton disregard for the law."

"My question for him is, 'Are there any other Illinois laws you consider optional?'" McConnaughay said. "I'm sure there are lots of taxpayers who would love the luxury of choosing to pay their taxes when it's convenient."

Surges, who was a Gilberts trustee from 1997 through 2001, seeks the new 33rd seat, which includes all or part of St. Charles, Geneva, South Elgin, Elgin, Gilberts, Huntley, Hampshire and Crystal Lake.

"He is trying to be an elected official, so he wants to be commuted and clean," Webb said. "He doesn't believe he did anything wrong. He just wants to be above board."

•Daily Herald staff writer Larissa Chinwah contributed to this report.

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