11/25/08 — County tax collection up 5 percent

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County tax collection up 5 percent

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 25, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County's tax collection rate is proving to be a bit of a bright spot in an otherwise steady diet of bleak economic news reflecting about a 5-percent increase -- about $2.7 million -- over the same period last year.

Wayne County Tax Administrator David Ward said he has no explanation for the estimated increase.

"You just never know (about the collection rate)," he said. "I could check at the end of December and it could be down by 5 percent over last year."

Ward said people often budget to pay bills, including their property taxes even in tight economic times.

"People are just accustomed to mailing in their monthly bills," he said.

County Manager Lee Smith agrees.

"I think some of it is that folks are paying their bills in advance of Christmas and not waiting when they may not have it after the holidays," Smith said. "Folks are reprioritizing."

The county also collects for Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Fremont and Eureka and normally people pay their city and county taxes at the same time, Ward said.

However, Ward said he "could not guarantee" that the collection rates for those municipalities are up by the same margin that the county's rate is.

When a taxpayer who lives in one of those towns pays only a portion of the taxes due, a formula is used to divide the payment between the county and town, he said.

The county offices will be closed Dec. 22-26 for Christmas and the week after Christmas is normally "very busy, " Ward said.

Meanwhile, the tax office is preparing for the expected crush as some people still wait until the last minute and then try to beat the filing deadline. This year's deadline falls on Monday, Jan. 5, at 5 p.m.

Mailed-in payments that arrive after that time, but have a U.S. Postal Service time stamp showing it was mailed prior to the deadline, will be considered on time.

Office time stamps do not qualify, Ward said.

Taxpayers who fail to meet the deadline will have a 2-percent penalty added to their bill effective Jan 6. An additional three-fourths of one percent is added to any outstanding balance for each addition month that the taxes are past due.

People who wait until the last minute to pay their taxes should expect to see some lines at the tax office.

Ward said mailing the payments in is just more convenient.