08/07/09 — Lightening Strike puts Duplin further behind in tax billing

View Archive

Lightening Strike puts Duplin further behind in tax billing

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on August 7, 2009 1:46 PM

Taxes might be certain, but lightning strikes are unpredictable, the Duplin County tax office learned this week.

Duplin County residents will receive their tax bills about 10 days later than anticipated following a spate of technical problem at the office. A printer malfunction kept workers from printing and mailing the tax bills as previously planned, and a lightning strike at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday took down the computer server dedicated to printing the bills.

"I think there's been a gremlin at every turn," County Manager Mike Aldridge said.

The county had to order a replacement part for the special mass production printer and by Thursday morning had managed to resolve the lightning strike problem, but there was another reason for the delay.

Recent changes to the tax statutes altered the exemptions for homesteads and the elderly, and the computer programming had to be changed to include the updates.

The printing process, which takes several hours, was slated to begin Thursday. If there are no more delays, residents will likely begin receiving their bills in the mail by Monday, Aldridge said.

The county will not be able to extend the early return deadline of Aug. 31 despite the late start to the mailing because the deadline is set by law, and the county has no authority to change it.

"That's by statute, the county doesn't control that date," said Aldridge, who added that the county would have liked to extend the date if it had been possible.

Taxpayers turning in their payment by the early deadline will receive a 2 percent discount on their taxes.

Officials don't yet know what kind of collection rate to expect this year due to the economic struggle, or whether the downturn will cause more late or unpaid bills than in previous years.

"Unemployment is higher than normal, and people are having a hard time," Aldridge said. "I don't know how significant that's going to be on our collections."

If residents struggle to pay their taxes, the best thing to do is contact the tax office immediately, he said.

"They should not let it become delinquent, they should contact the tax department and arrange some sort of payment plan to keep the county tax office from taking action against them," he said.

If there is a payment plan in place and the taxpayer is following the payment sche-dule accordingly, the office will not take action against the person even if they cannot make the full amount of the payment at one time.

The total property valuation for Duplin County this year was $3.2 billion for the county's 524,000 acres. The land is divided up into about 30,000 parcels, and the tax office billed a total of $24.2 million for both property and motor vehicle taxes. The Duplin County tax rate is set at 69 cents per $100 valuation.

Tax accounts become delinquent if they are not paid by Jan. 6, 2010.