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Grayson tackles tax bills

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Both the commissioner of revenue and treasurer are on board with the possible change to twice-a-year tax collections in Grayson County.

Talks continued during a budget workshop on May 5. Grayson Supervisors’ Chairman Mike Maynard asked Commissioner of Revenue Larry Bolt and Treasurer Junior Young to attend the meeting and walk the board through the process.

Young said the real estate taxes would be split into two payments — one half due on October 5 and the other half due April 5.

Personal property taxes would still be paid once a year, but would be due with the second half of the real estate taxes in April.

Tax bills would still be sent out one month before the due date, and penalties would be issued after the bill is one day past due.

Bolt added that billing in October instead of December would get the payment away from the Christmas season. Many citizens have said that is a bad time to pay taxes.

Maynard asked the Young and Bolt if it would help or hurt the county's cash flow to bill twice a year.

Young said the negative effect the first year would be the lack of funding after December that the county is used to.

The current tax payment deadline of December 5 allows the county to have roughly 85 percent of its real estate money collected before the end of the calendar year. Young added that the rest of the payments typically come around April.

Supervisor Joe Vaughan questioned if there would be a penalty assessed on the first half of citizens' tax bills if not paid on time.

Bolt said there would be a penalty and interest added after the payment was late one day. In other words, people couldn’t wait until April to pay their entire amount.

Citizens could, however, pay the entire amount in October if they wanted to.

Young said those who pay late tend to pay around April and May, so timing the second payment for April should hit them just right.

Having it split in half should help those folks, Young added.

Bolt said the change would not affect the process of sending out bills for personal property taxes, but that the change to the real estate tax collection would have to be sped up.

“We can make this work this year,” Bolt said.

Maynard questioned if moving the personal property due date to October — with the first half of real estate tax — would help the cash flow.

Bolt said it would, but it was not possible this year. Citizens had until May 1 to list their personal property, and Bolt said there was no way to have bills ready to be sent out by Sept. 1.

Young suggested that the board hold a public hearing to get the citizens’ comments prior to making any changes. “Talking among ourselves, we don’t see any problem in doing it if the board so chooses,” he said.

Supervisor Doug Carrico said he thought the change sounded like a good idea.

Supervisor Brenda Sutherland agreed, saying that several elderly people have talked to her about paying twice a year to help out.

Vaughan also agreed, saying it would help people a lot to get the payment away from Christmas.

When asked about the extra costs associated with twice-a-year billing, Young said it shouldn’t be a problem. Typically, the county sends out past due notices in March, but he hopes that mailing can be eliminated to cover the costs of mailing tax bills twice a year.

Maynard asked for more information to be brought to the regular meeting on Thursday to show the process the board needed to follow.

The supervisors also talked about eliminating the county decals for vehicles.

Young said the demand to do away with the sticker was there and the county could go with a fee that could be put on a citizen’s tax ticket.

The same exemptions would apply for disabled veterans, prisoners of war, antique and farm vehicles and so forth, Young said, but all others would be assessed a fee of $25.

Bolt added that the county could get some additional funding from the fee, as all vehicles registered in the county would be required to pay. Currently, Most people don't buy decals for vehicles they don’t drive.

The fee would be included on the tax ticket for each citizen's personal property and all vehicles would be charged — even if they aren't driven.

Young said that all other counties he has spoken with about the elimination have generated more funds with the fee than with the decal.

If a person fails to pay the fee, a stop will be put on their license plate at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and they won't be able to renew their license. The DMV will require a $20 fee to allow license renewal.

The county won’t get that $20, but instead will have to send it to the DMV.

The current fee for a decal is $20. If the board opts to go with a $25 fee, it will generate at least $65,000 in additional revenue next year.