12/18/11 — Tax bill deadline looming

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Tax bill deadline looming

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 18, 2011 1:50 AM

Wayne County taxpayers have three weeks remaining in which to pay their property taxes without having to worry about a late penalty. However, they are reminded that the tax office will be closed Dec. 26 through 29 and again on Jan. 2 for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The tax office will be open on Dec. 30.

Jan. 5 is the deadline to pay to avoid a 2 percent penalty that will be added on Jan. 6. An additional three-fourths of a percent is added on any unpaid balance at the first of each following month.

Bills may be paid at the tax office on the first floor of the county courthouse annex or people can use a drop box located on Ormond Avenue next to the annex.

Payments sent through the mail must have a U.S. postmark of no later than Jan. 5 to be considered "on time." Office postal machine postmarks do not qualify.

Tax bills also may be paid online. However, there is an additional fee associated with paying online. The county does not receive any of that fee.

Along with collecting taxes for the county, the tax office also collects bills for the county's municipalities.

Taxpayers residing outside of a municipality also have a solid waste fee that is included on their bill.

When Wayne County commissioners adopted the 2011-12 county budget in June they reduced the fee from $60 to $45 per household. They also changed who has to pay the fee, which was established some 20 years ago when the county adopted its current solid waste collection program.

In prior years, people who lived outside of a municipality and who used a licensed hauler to carry off their garbage were exempted from the fee. But when commissioners reduced the fee, they also eliminated the exemption. That means the fee showed up for the first time this year on the tax bills of people who had previously been exempted.

The board's action went largely unnoticed until people started receiving their tax bills that had been delayed from their usual late August and early September mailing because of Hurricane Irene-related power problems.

Mobile home park owners, who use private haulers, took commissioners to task for the change that they argued would put them in a financial bind during an already down economy. The fee would be assessed against each lot in the mobile home park amounting to thousands of dollars.

Commissioners in November relented and voted to waive the fee for this year only -- a move that will create a $150,000 hole in the county budget.

County Manager Lee Smith said the waiver would give the county time to revisit the fee in hopes of finding a better way to more fairly administer it. Also, the county could review conflicting rules between the county's mobile home park and solid waste ordinances.

Commissioners had to amend the county budget ordinance to provide for the exemption.