SOUTH HOLLAND | Thornton Township officials on Thursday mailed about 16,000 checks to local property owners who paid their property tax bills two years ago and are now getting refunds.
The township collected more money than it needed to cover its operating expenses, resulting in the rebate checks, which should start showing up in homeowner mailboxes in coming days.
This is not a new trend for Thornton Township. Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli said this is the eighth time the township has been able to issue rebate checks to residents during the past 17 years. The average check this year is for $32, although Zuccarelli said he saw a few checks for amounts as high as $150.
The total amount being rebated thus far is about $550,000, although Zuccarelli said there are still about 2,000 property owners in the township whose applications for rebates have yet to be processed, which could drive the total higher.
The highest amount rebated before was about $550,000 total, and with some applications yet to be processed, “this is probably the highest we’ve ever returned,” Zuccarelli said.
When township officials approved their tax levies in past years, they thought they would need every penny they were asking for in order to maintain the programs and services that Thornton Township offers its 17 south suburban communities.
But Zuccarelli said local legislators, along with county and federal officials, have had success in getting grants from other governmental sources for the township.
Using that money to pay for some of the township programs meant that less of the money that was levied in local property taxes had to be used. That resulted in the rebates that have become a biennial routine for Thornton Township.
“We have had very successful local state legislators who have been able to get us grants and other sources of funding,” Zuccarelli said. “That has resulted in the larger surpluses that we are rebating now.”
Township officials have been working at processing rebate applications since the end of June, said township Financial Operations Director Robert Hunt.
Officials made sure local residents were aware of the possibility of a rebate, both through an automatic “robocall” and through two mailings by the township this fall.
Residents must be able to document they live in a Thornton Township community and they paid their property tax bills two years ago.
While the bulk of those who qualify for the rebate will be homeowners, owners of apartment buildings also can qualify if they actually live in one of the apartment units.
“If they live in it, that’s fine,” Zuccarelli said. “But they can’t get a rebate if they own it but live somewhere else.”
Zuccarelli said of the roughly 42,000 households in the township, officials expect about half to actually apply.
“It seems like everybody is having a difficult time financially,” he said. “Maybe that’s why we have so many applications.”