Hoping to get people to pay their utility bills and property taxes, town clerk Drenda Ammons is reminding residents that government staff will continue to use Debt Setoff Clearinghouse, a program that will force some to give up a portion of their income tax refund and/or lottery winnings, if they still owe money to the town.
Ammons established that the clearinghouse is created through a partnership with the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Governments and has been enforced in Roseboro for the past year.
According to data provided by the League of Municipalities, just over $25.7 million has been collected for municipalities and county governments across the state, since its inception in 2002. In fact, since 2006, the program has collected $10 million from its sources.
In Roseboro, $1,500 has been collected in the first year.
In the last two months, Ammons has reminded residents attending town meetings that the program is in place and will be used by the town.
“I like for residents to know about it before they pay their taxes,” Ammons commented. Reminding them, she explained, would prevent some from falling into the trap of losing some of their income tax returns as a result of unpaid bills to the town.
“This will encourage people to go out and pay their taxes,” Ammons said.
However, according to data from the League of Municipalities, only the North Carolina Tax refund will be impacted, not federal taxes.
Also, if the town is forced to use the program, the delinquent tax or utility payment will also include a fee, but the town will not be charged.
This Debt Setoff program also permits the town to collect from lottery winnings, if a resident wins more than $500.
By using this program in concern with the garnishing of wages, Roseboro, Ammons said, continues to boast a 97 percent tax collection rate.
Without Debt Setoff, Ammons pointed out that collection for utility bills would be more difficult.
“It is always a challenge to collect those” Ammons commented, noting that wage garnishment is not possible for people who do not pay utility bills.
However, the program cannot be used if a resident owes $50 or less.
The town clerk added that the majority of tax collection does come from garnishing wages, but this program does help in some cases.
“Every little bit helps,” Ammons pointed out.
In the cases where Roseboro has to use the program, the resident will be notified that the debt setoff process will begin, and the town will also explain how an appeals process might work.
The overall goal, Ammons pointed out, is to get residents to go ahead and pay their property taxes before debt setoff would begin.