07/18/10 — County readies 2010 property tax bills

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County readies 2010 property tax bills

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 18, 2010 1:50 AM

Wayne County residents, as well as residents in six of the county's seven municipalities, are just a few weeks away from receiving their 2010 property tax bills.

The county tax department will mail out roughly 70,000 tax notices in early August, and taxpayers will have until Jan. 5 to pay without facing interest charges.

The county also collects taxes for all of its municipalities, except Walnut Creek.

The county tax rate remains the same as last year at 76.4 cents per $100 worth of property.

Meanwhile, as of June 30, the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year, the county tax collection rate was 97.03 percent, down slightly from 97.18 for 2008-09.

The total levy was roughly $45 million, of which approximately $44 million has been collected. Another $1.3 million to $1.4 million remains unpaid.

"We'd like to keep it (collection rate) as high as we can, but with the economy and the way things have been I am not uncomfortable with that," county Tax Administrator David Ward said. "I feel like our folks have worked hard using our delinquent remedies that we have as far as collection of revenues.

"We will continue to do that. I feel like we have done a good job to get to that 97.03."

The county can collect those back taxes by garnishment of wages, bank accounts and can foreclosure on property, although is normally a last resort, county officials said. It can even attach state tax returns through the state debt setoff program as well as lottery winnings.

"If you are getting a (state) refund and owe us taxes we actually can take your return or part of it to apply to our local taxes," Ward said. "We do that (attach state tax returns) year in and year out."

Unlike some counties, Wayne does not offer any discount for early payment of tax bills.

"No, to my knowledge we have never done that, not in my time anyway," Ward said. "Some counties do, some don't."

"Some smaller counties that have cash flow problems try to get (tax) bills paid a lot quicker," said Alan Lumpkin, assistant tax administrator. "This sort of gets the cash flow for the smaller counties. As you know, they are due Sept. 1, but you have until Jan. 5 to pay without penalty. So a lot of folks will wait until the last of December to pay it."

People who pay by mail must be sure that the envelope has an official U.S. Postal Service postmark for Jan. 5 for it to be considered on time. Office postal meter stamps are not sufficient.

Taxes that are one month late are subject to a 2 percent interest charge. An additional three-quarters of 1 percent is added on the first day of each succeeding month on any unpaid balance.

Vehicle tax collection rates continue to trail property tax collection. Through the end of June, about 85.6 percent of the vehicle taxes for Wayne had been collected, compared to 85.49 the prior year.

Collection of vehicle taxes is handled differently than property taxes.

There is an approximately three-month lag time between the time a person renews their vehicle registration and when they receive the tax bill. Once the tax is delinquent, the county can place a block on the next renewal for the tags. Still, some people do not pay the taxes until it is time to renew their tags again.

The state had been poised to implement a new procedure for collecting vehicle taxes next year, but has now pushed it back to 2013.

The new law would require people to pay their taxes before getting their vehicle tags, not after.

Lumpkin said that while he had been looking forward to the change, the delay makes sense.

"They actually were going to add on a piece to their (Department of Transportation) existing computer system," he said. "They got into it and realized that in a couple of years they would have to redo the whole system. They said it would be crazy to spend money to make that enhancement then turn around two years from now and have to redo the whole system again.

"Now they are looking at revamping the whole system and making this a part of it. I really think that is a smart idea."