Property tax collections ahead of pace

By Chris Berendt Staff Writer

February 12, 2014

Property tax collections are ahead of pace this year, but with still more to collect, notices have been sent out and dates to advertise delinquent taxpayers and hear appeals have been set.

This year, through Jan. 31, the amount of unpaid taxes stands at $3,381,030.59, Sampson County tax administrator Jim Johnson noted. Last year, that figure was a bit higher, at $3,518,474.05.

“We’re $137,443.46 less than last year at this time,” Johnson said, referring to the amount of taxes still outstanding. “Overall our collection percentage right now is at 88 percent. This time last year, we were at 87 (percent). So we’re just a little bit ahead of schedule.”

Jefferson Strickland noted that less money in this case was a “positive.”

Johnson concurred with that assessment.

“That’s right — we’ve collected that much more money on real property,” Johnson noted. “Up until taxes go delinquent, we really don’t enforce any collections. From the time the bills go out up until this time, it really is up to the taxpayer to pay the bill on time. We really don’t enforce anything extra or try to garnish anything or force collections until they go delinquent.”

According to law, it is the duty of the tax collector every February to report to the governing board the amount of unpaid taxes which are liens on real property. The board must set a date to advertise those delinquent taxes at least once between March 1 and June 30. Johnson requested the ad run April 3, with the deadline for payment being March 28.

Payment must be in the Tax Office by 5 p.m. on that day. The Sampson Board of Commissioners, in a recent meeting, signed off on those dates.

The first meeting of the Board of Equalization and Review — in Sampson County, the Board of Commissioners serves in that capacity and heard tax appeals — shall be shall not be held earlier than the first Monday in April and not later than the first Monday in May. The board must be completed with its work by July 1. Johnson recommended the board convene from 1-6 p.m. April 22, 26 and 29, agreed to by the board.

“On our past due notices that went on just a few weeks ago, we sent out all the information about advertising the tax liens if bills weren’t paid by a certain time,” Johnson commented. “At this point in time, we’ll start getting aggressive with what’s left.”

As far as the tax appeals are concerned, a change to the tax bill is only made if the property owner can demonstrate the appraised tax value is more than the market value. That usually only comes with an independent appraisal that contradicts the county-placed value, or some other form of tangible evidence that the property appraisal is too high.

Final tax bills are sent out at the end of July and the beginning of August. Those wishing to file an appeal based on their assessed value can still do so even when the appeals are underway. The appeals have been less strenuous each year following 2011’s revaluation, which Johnson said was to be expected.

“Typically what you see as you get further and further away from a reval year, your number of appeals should become lower and lower,” the tax administrator attested.

That is exactly what has occurred in Sampson, with just three dates this year, compared to five in 2013 and nine in 2012.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at