With the continuing COVID-19 crisis and many individuals out of work, the Lake County Board of Commissioners discussed options regarding property tax relief. The board didn't take any official action, but brought up several options the county could take.
The first half of real estate tax payments are due by May 15. Since county buildings are closed to the public, the county has asked people to put physical checks in the dropbox outside the Lake County Service Center or pay online through the county's website.
County auditor Linda Libal said she's already received several payments. However, Libal said she's also had conversations with several auditors around the state whose counties are considering abatements for those impacted by the crisis or changing the due date for property taxes to July 15.
If the board members wanted to apply abatements, Libal recommended applying them county-wide rather than on a case-by-case basis. To do abatements case-by-case "would be incredibly time consuming" for the auditor's office, she said.
County administrator Matt Huddleston also pointed out that abatements would directly impact the county's budget.
"If you're going to entertain property tax cuts, then you'll have to look at county service cuts," Huddleston said. "The revenues need to be there if we're going to continue to provide service."
Board member Rick Goutermont said he'd like to avoid making the due date later, but supported abating late penalties on a case-by-case basis.
"My position is to do nothing at this time. Keep the May 15 date, but anyone who can't make that date, we'd look at abating their penalties and interest," Goutermont said. "The expectation would be that we still collect the taxes, but I don't think we should charge penalties and interest after a crisis situation."
Commissioners agreed to continue the discussion and reach out to other municipalities and townships to see what they're doing.
"This is something we're just starting to dialogue about," said commissioner Jeremy Hurd. "I don't want to get roped into doing things."