Why several taxing bodies didn't get $3.12 million in property taxes they were owed

Several school districts and hundreds of other taxing bodies are getting an unexpected infusion of property taxes that had been collected but not dispersed over the past four years.

The tardy funds totaled about $3.12 million, according to Lake County Clerk Anthony Vega, who announced the distributions last week.

Vega defeated incumbent Robin M. O'Connor for the post last November. After being sworn in, Vega said he directed managers to identify ways to streamline operations, provide better service and update policy.

During that process, it was determined funds dating to fiscal year 2019 had not been distributed to local taxing districts as part of the redemption and Greenbook process, according to the announcement.

The ‘found' funds are delinquent property taxes that were paid (redeemed) by property owners but not distributed to taxing bodies.

If property taxes aren't paid on time, they become delinquent and are sold at a tax sale, according to Kania Robinson, spokesperson for Vega. The sold taxes must be redeemed for the current owner not to lose the property.

The county clerk's office administers the redemption process. The Greenbook is a list of county-owned parcels for public sale.

Robinson said some processes were never fully completed during several fiscal years. Funds weren't distributed because of high staff turnover in the tax department, lack of training and ultimately lack of oversight and accountability, she added.

Taxes that had not been distributed were sitting in bank accounts.

After records were reconciled, the amount owed to more than 200 taxing districts was about $3.12 million. Approximate amounts owed by fiscal year were: $22,952 in 2019; $596,496 in 2020; $1.56 million in 2021; and $937,229 in 2022.

Distributions are expected to be completed by the end of August, Robinson said. Vega is scheduled to brief members of the county board's finance and administrative committee on the matter Thursday morning. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Click this link to view online.

Vega said he was glad to be sending the taxes to where they belong and was “committed to rebuilding the trust” between the clerk's office, local taxing districts and constituents.

“We are continuing to implement internal controls to ensure this does not happen again,” according to Vega.

The taxing districts have varying amounts owed to them, including $260,640 to Waukegan District 60; $177,314 for Antioch District 34; $169,459 to North Chicago District 187; $141,145 to Round Lake District 116; and $118,153 to Lake Zurich District 95.

“We were not expecting the funds, but are certainly happy to see that money owed to us is coming our way,” said Nicholas Alatzakis, spokesman for District 60. Funds will be going toward new initiatives, he added.

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