Kendall County Treasurer Jill Ferko acknowledges she's been "taking a beating" over not being able to accept prepayment of property taxes, but there is nothing the office can do.
Ferko said Thursday that her office does not have a system or procedure in place to accept early payment of property tax bills, and said she has been getting "a lot" of calls from taxpayers about it.
"We don't have software able to do that and we didn't have time to get something implemented," she said.
The new tax bill recently approved by Congress caps state and local income and property tax deductions at $10,000, starting with taxes to be filed in 2019. Residents across the country are trying to pay their property taxes before the end of the calendar year so they can presumably claim the deduction on income tax returns filed in April before the change takes place.
Property taxes in Kendall County are typically paid in two installments, due in June and September.
While some counties in Illinois, including Cook County, Kane County and DuPage County have systems in place to accept prepayment, Ferko said Kendall County does not.
"The counties that are collecting it, they've been collecting prepayments for years," Ferko said. "They've been doing it. We never have. No one has ever really questioned it before."
Kane County Treasurer David Rickert said his staff uses an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of prepayments.
"(Treasurer staff) will manually import the prepayment data from an Excel spreadsheet into Devnet before property tax bills go out; Devnet is our tax accounting software," Rickert said.
In Kane County, Rickert said he anticipates around 1,000 property owners will pre-pay their bills by the end of the year, equalling more than $10 million in property taxes pre-paid. This dwarfs the number seen just three years ago, when five residents wanted to pre-pay their property taxes, according to figures provided by Rickert.
One resident and taxpayer, Wendy Gasinski of Plano, said it's "terrible" that Ferko's office does not accept prepayment of property taxes and that Ferko was "unapologetic" when she spoke to Gasinski Thursday morning.
"I asked the treasurer what they were going to do about this, what they planned on doing; this is a big deal," Gasinski said.
Gasinski also said Ferko informed her that the state does not require the county to accept prepayment of property taxes.
Gasinski said her accountant told her that the new rules would affect her family, and it would help them if they could pay even a portion of their property taxes early.
Gasinski said the treasurer's office should have prepared for the move before the bill was passed, as she said the tax bill has "been in the works for six months."
"Why wasn't somebody looking out for this and doing something proactive instead of now having to be reactive?" Gasinski said.
While talks about tax policy have been ongoing and the tax bill was introduced in Congress on Nov. 1, the $10,000 cap was a last minute amendment added by Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, during negotiations three weeks ago when the bill was first approved by the Senate, according to the Library of Congress.
Regarding her response to residents and Gasinski in particular, Ferko said she believed she was "apologetic."
"It becomes difficult to determine what to say to someone who does not like the answer they are receiving," Ferko said. "I am sure that I was apologetic as I have been to everyone that has called. As she continued to question my judgment, I did reply at one point, with the fact that there are no provisions in the state statute that require us to collect prepayment."