While tax collections are just minutely down in percentage from last year’s figure at this time, the amount of tax levied is also greater than in years past, the county tax administrator said.
This week, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners received a brief tax update, and voted to authorize advertisement of the names of those who still have unpaid taxes at the end of March. The board also set dates to convene as the Board of Equalization and Review in order to hear tax appeals, the number of which has dropped significantly, at least thus far, compared to the last two years.
Tax administrator Jim Johnson reported to the board the amount of unpaid taxes for the last year which are liens on real property. Johnson said, according to N.C. General Statute, it is the duty of the tax collector on the first Monday of February to report the amount of unpaid taxes for the current fiscal year.
There is $200,000 more in unpaid taxes this year than in 2012, currently around $3.5 million, where the figure in February 2012 was at about $3.3 million.
“That (unpaid taxes) figure is $3,518,474.05,” said Johnson. “Last year, it was $3,303,942.86. Our overall collection rate right now is 87.4 percent, compared to 87.8 percent last year at this point in time. Our total tax levied is about half a million dollars more at this point as well.”
Following receipt of the information, the board also set a date to advertise delinquent taxes. That must be done at least once between March 1 and June 30. Johnson recommended an advertising date of April 4, with the deadline for payment set at March 29, by 5 p.m.
“We would have to have the payment in the office by 5 p.m. March 29 to keep their name out of the paper,” Johnson noted.
According to state law, the tax collector also shall assess an advertising fee to each parcel to cover the cost of the advertisement. Based on a $2.86 cost per parcel in 2012, Johnson suggested a $3 charge per parcel for the 2013 ad.
“We’ve been using $2 a parcel for I don’t know how many years,” said Johnson. “We’re looking to change the charge to $3 per parcel this year for the advertising fee to cover the cost. The statute reads ‘estimated cost based on anything reasonable to cover the cost of the advertisement.’ Based on the number of parcels we had to advertise last year and the total cost of the ad, it was $2.86, so we just applied the $3 fee.”
Commissioners approved the fee, and also set dates for Board of Equalization and Review hearings, also as mandated by law.
The first meeting of the Board of E&R — in Sampson County, the Board of Commissioners serves in that capacity and heard tax appeals — shall not be held earlier than the first Monday in April and not later than the first Monday in May. The board shall complete its duties on or before the third Monday following its first meeting or by July 1. The meeting dates must be published at least three times and include the date on which the board expects to adjourn. Johnson recommended the board convene from 1-6 p.m. on April 23, April 24, April 30, May 1 and May 8.
While hearings are slated to end at 6 p.m., they may go longer if necessary. All residents have the opportunity to speak to the Board of E&R and contest their property values, but by appointment only.
They were nine dates scheduled to hear more than 80 tax appeals last year. In 2011, the Board of E&R listened to close to 200 formal appeals to the values over numerous weeks — there was also a delay due to the April 2011 tornadoes — holding more than a dozen sessions to hear all appeals. However, that was the exception rather than the rule, due to 2011 being a revaluation year, Johnson said.
“Do we anticipate an active session as we have in the past?” asked Commissioner Albert Kirby.
“Well typically what you see as you get further and further away from a reval year, your number of appeals should become lower and lower,” Johnson said. “When we advertise it in the paper, we may see a spike in that. Right now, we have about 20 appeals that have come into the office at this point. We hope to complete it within the five days.”
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.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.