Homeowners raise roof over tax bills

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Homeowners raise roof over tax bills

April 20, 2000


Braidwood resident Len Krull missed a $10 tax payment to a little-known taxing district he never heard of.

Now Krull, along with 180 other area residents, must pay 10 to 20 times the original fee or face the threat of losing his home.

"It's extortion. I never got a bill and now, with interest and fees, I've got to pay $173 or lose my house," Krull said.

The problem stems from the fact that tax bills from the Claypool Drainage and Levee District were mailed separately from the regular property tax bills. Some people never got them; others ignored them because they had never heard of the district.

Krull bought his house last July. The first he heard of the drainage district was when he received a letter in January stating his taxes had been sold to pay a $10 bill.

When he checked with the county treasurer's office, Krull was told the bills were sent to the previous owner, but that he still was responsible for the tax and penalties.

Other residents received bills but did not pay them, assuming their regular property tax payments would take care of them.

For a century, the Claypool District has maintained drainage in rural parts of Will and Grundy counties. In 1997, it switched from billing towns a flat rate to billing homeowners $10 apiece directly for its services.

It then became the county treasurer's obligation to collect the bills. But computer problems prevented Claypool's fees from being included as a line item on regular property tax bills.

"I requested originally that it be put on the tax bill," said Will County Treasurer Jack Weber. But the county computer department told him "there was no way because the computer program wasn't conversant with this type of tax."

So Weber sent the Claypool bills separately. When people didn't pay, they were first sent a "friendly reminder" and then a certified letter stating their taxes would be sold if not paid, Weber said.

Tax buyers, who have the power to force a sale of the home if the bill is not paid in 36 months, charge between 6 percent and 8 percent interest to the homeowner. But it is an additional county charge of $104 for processing that makes up most of the late fee, Weber said.

Will County will include the Claypool District in the 2001 property tax bill, but this year's bills, which will be mailed at the end of this month, will remain separate, he said.

Meanwhile, Krull said he never received a warning letter by certified mail. But Braidwood Mayor Harvey Taylor says his daughter did. She wound up paying $141 on her $10 bill.


-- - (x@xxx.com), April 21, 2000

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