Thousands Of Cook County Seniors Overcharged For Property Taxes

Chicago News

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of seniors living in Cook County have been overcharged for their property taxes, all because of a computer glitch.

Those affected are all in Wheeling Township, which includes several Northwest suburbs. More than 4,500 seniors are affected, and they all receive the senior freeze exemption.

The assessor’s office discovered the glitch as tax bills were going out.

Some seniors say the county could have handled it differently.

Maureen Welborn, 76, received the second installment of her 2018 property tax bill about a week ago and was at a loss for words.

“I cried because I thought, ‘Where am I going to get this money?’ I don’t have this kind of money,” Welborn said.

Her bill jumped close to $2,000.

“This is a lot of money,” she said. “I mean, I don’t have an extra $2,500 sitting around that I could pay this. It did cause me some anxiety. A couple of sleepless nights.”

But she took a closer look and the bill and noticed something was off with her senior freeze exemption.

“I could see in my 2018 bill I only had a $286 senior freeze,” Weborn said.

Normally it would be around $1,700. She called her daughter, who found other seniors with the same issue on Facebook.

Welborn tried calling the Wheeling Township assessor’s office for answers but couldn’t get through.

By that time the office was already overwhelmed with calls and visits and had to bring in extra staff to help.

The miscalculations were caused by a corrupted file in the computer system.

“Yesterday we saw almost 200 people,” said Wheeling Township Assessor Jerry Sadler. “On a normal day it’s nowhere near that amount.”

Sadler said if your senior freeze value is not within a $200 range and you previously received the exemption the bill is likely incorrect.

Cook County reissued tax bills with the correct amount last week.

“They know it’s a problem, and they’re working on it right away,” said Sadler. “I’m not happy they made the mistake, but they’re working to correct it.”

If you think you’re affected by the miscalculation, go to the Cook County Assessor’s website to check for the correct amount.

If you already paid the bill, you will get a refund within six to eight weeks.

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