First Posted: 7/27/2009
DOBSON Even with unemployment at an all time high, Surry County residents are proving to be committed to paying their taxes, according to numbers just out from the Surry County Tax Administrator Michael Hartgrove.
Surry County is ranked third in tax collections out of a group of 27 North Carolina counties which are similar in size, population and parcel size. Only Moore and Craven counties had a higher tax collection rate for fiscal year 2008-09, which ended on June 30. Surry County had a 97.75 percent tax collection rate. The rate of personal property tax collection was 91.21 percent and real property collection was reported at 98.45 percent.
Real property is tax is based on the value of a house and land. Personal property tax value is placed on property such as mobile homes, lawn mowers and boats, for example.
Surry Countys current tax rate is 58 cents per $100 value.
Its amazing, because published reports say our unemployment is in double-digits. This is the highest collection percentage weve had since Ive been here, Hartgrove said of his seven-year employment with the county.
Hartgrove said the increase in the percentage of collection comes from better education for taxpayers from his office and from more aggressive collection.
I think the people of Surry County know what drives our rate and that is getting the taxes collected by the due date. Weve have made a lot of improvements in collection, Hartgrove said.
Commissioner Paul Johnson said he also attributes the increase in collection to citizens who want a brighter future for themselves and the county.
I attribute it to a strong belief in ethics and paying their taxes. I think our citizens work extra jobs in order to get their bills paid on time. They dont want to see their name in the newspaper and they dont want a legal battle with the county. But the biggest thing I attribute it to is the citizens know that things will eventually get better in Surry County and by paying their taxes on time, it allows the county to bring in more industry and jobs, Johnson said.
This years tax bills were sent out on July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2009-10. Hartgrove came before the board of county commissioners last week to charge off last years uncollected amount, so his office can go forward with trying to collect back taxes. Of the $31 million dollars in taxes, $373,317 was unpaid in personal property taxes. In real property, $329,542 was unpaid last year. Hartgrove said his staff will diligently try to regain those tax dollars.
We are working with all those people to tell us about situations where they are having hardships, he said of the uncollected tax dollars.
Hartgrove said those experiencing unemployment or other difficulties should call his office to work out payment options.
We will work with anyone as long as they let us know. If they tell us that they have medical problems or that theyve had a bad patch, we are willing to work with them, Hartgrove said.
A two-percent discount is offered to citizens who pay their taxes early, before Sept. 1. He said about 40 percent of taxpayers pay their taxes before the discount period ends.
We are trying to encourage the ones who have been delinquent in past years to go ahead and start making payments so they wont be so slammed when it comes to Christmastime and the taxes are due.
He said payment plans can be set up, so that residents can pay a little bit each month instead of receiving one bill tax bill in July.
Hartgrove said his office is still looking at models from other counties to try to increase the efficiency of his office.
We want to find ways to be able to help our citizens. Its tough all over the state, Hartgrove said. I am proud of my staff and Im proud of the citizens because they pay their taxes.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.