RANTOUL — Farmers have complained about delayed payments to the county’s drainage districts, but Champaign County’s treasurer plans to make things right today.
Laurel Prussing said the delays were the result of a “perfect storm” of issues facing her office this year, including a delay in the state setting the county multiplier and the installation of a new computer system.
“They’re on their way,” Prussing said Tuesday. “I talked to the guy who’s doing them, and he expects to get them out tomorrow.”
Other taxing districts, including school districts and libraries, complained about a delay in payments in July, and Prussing said then that they should receive their payments at the end of the month.
“We had what I would call a perfect storm. Tax bills went out late because the state was late in getting the multiplier out,” she said. “Then we were also installing a completely new property tax system.”
She added: “That’s why we’re behind. We expect to be doing well next year, but this year was kind of a mess.”
Chris Hausman, who farms near Pesotum, brought up the issue at the most recent county board meeting.
He said the drainage districts typically get their payments in two installments, with the first usually coming in July.
“Then you get a smaller distribution later,” he said.
The drainage districts are solely funded by property taxes, Hausman said, so a delay is causing some to push back payments to contractors.
Drainage districts each have three commissioners, charged with maintaining the tile drainage system underneath the area’s farms.
The tiles — perforated tubes buried under farmland — drain excess water into ditches that eventually flows into rivers and the Gulf of Mexico.
“We rely on those distributions to pay contractors for the tile repairs and maintenance work that we do,” Hausman said. “And what’s unfortunate is, it’s hard to tell a contractor we can’t pay him because we haven’t got the distribution yet.”
Hausman is a commissioner for the Pesotum consolidated drainage district, which he said isn’t behind on its bills.
“We are current with our contractors, but that’s not the case in all the drainage districts that I’ve heard about,” Hausman said.
Commissioner Pete Johnson said one of his three districts, Big Slough, owes its contractors more than $60,000.
“We’ve had construction work done, ditch dredging, tree removal, some bridge repairs,” he said. “We’ve owed this money for a month and a half now. Luckily, he’s working with us” on the late payments.
Property-tax bills were mailed later than usual this year, pushing back the due date for the first payments from the usual June 1 to July 1.
Prussing blamed this on the Illinois Department of Revenue being late on supplying its multiplier, a figure used to keep assessments of properties at one-third of their market values.
As for the new technology, she said, “You can’t switch from one computer system to another flawlessly.
“We hope to do better next year,” she said.