Two years in the works, the county has made headway in its three-pronged approach toward revenue enhancement and taxpayer accountability with the Sampson County Board of Commissioners’ adoption of a resolution requiring tax certification prior to deed recordation.
The move is the first leg of an endeavor to ensure delinquent taxes are paid before any permits or other documents are issued through the county.
Following budget work sessions in early 2010, commissioners directed staff to research the possibility of adding Sampson County to existing legislation that required the payment of delinquent taxes prior to recordation of deeds and the issuance of permits, as well as special and conditional use permits. In August 2010, staff was asked to seek assistance from local legislators in passing a local bill requesting Sampson’s inclusion in the law.
Nearly two years later, that legislation was passed in the recent abbreviated N.C. General Assembly session.
“We’ve been trying to do this in order to up our tax collection rate,” said county attorney Annette Chancy-Starling. “We have finally received word back that we are included now. So the board would need to adopt a resolution just asking that this requirement be met — that in order for a deed to be recorded, taxes have to be paid or there has to be a stamp, a statement, on top of the deed that taxes would have to be paid upon closing.”
Most of the time, Chancy-Starling noted, taxes are paid at closing upon property being purchased, however there are situations where property is conveyed to a family member or another person and taxes are not paid. “It does happen,” she said.
House Bill 296 authorizes Sampson County to amend its ordinances and, by resolution, prohibit the issuance of permits or the recordation of deeds conveying property until delinquent taxes are paid. Assistant county manager Susan Holder said there is more work to do before implementing the provisions regarding the issuance of permits, but the portion regarding recordation of deeds could be implemented with the board’s resolution.
Current legislation, N.C. General Statute 161-31, “authorizes the Board of Commissioners by resolution to require the Register of Deeds not to accept any deed transferring real property for registration unless the county tax collector has certified that no delinquent ad valorem taxes, or other taxes with which the collector is charged, are a lien on the property described in the deed.” That law now includes Sampson, which joins about 70 other counties in the state.
The board unanimously adopted the resolution Monday, with an effective date of Sept. 1.
“This is one of the three pieces of legislation that the board asked us to pursue at the time,” Holder said. “You asked us to pursue that delinquent taxes would be paid prior to a deed being recorded, prior to a permit being issued and prior to the issuance of special or conditional use permits from the Planning Office.”
Holder said, with the board’s resolution, it would take care of the “first leg” of that endeavor.
“There is some additional work to be done so the citizens will not be encumbered too much, running back and forth between offices getting permits and zoning permits,” said Holder. “Staff has a little more work to do before we bring those two back to you. We don’t want to inconvenience our citizens. We’re asking that we wait on those other two until we can make sure there’s some computer work done so that the offices can interact between each other.”
Holder said that waiting on implementation would allow the opportunity to notify attorneys and others involved in land transfers. The Tax Office also would have to get some forms developed and “good dialogue” would need to occur between the Tax Office and the Register of Deeds about making sure delinquent taxes are paid, she said.
Back in 2010, county staff listed any number of avenues that could be explored toward enhancing revenue during a down economy. The board asked staff to research the possibility of mandating tax certification prior to deed recordation, as well as prohibiting the issuance of permits until all owed property taxes was paid, ways to maximize revenue while holding taxpayers accountable.
“The goal is to increase our tax collections and make sure delinquent taxes are paid,” Holder said.
Commissioner Jarvis McLamb made a motion to adopt the resolution, seconded by Commissioner Albert Kirby. The vote was unanimous.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.