Paying dues

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Edgar Mosley expressed what might be called the theme song of many standing in lines at the Cape Girardeau County collector's offices in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo., Monday, the final day to pay property taxes without a penalty.

"You hold onto it as long as you can," the Cape Girardeau man said.

For some people with little personal property, the bill might only be $20. Procter & Gamble paid close to $1 million.

The county collects taxes that help support 33 different governmental entities, including seven school districts, eight communities, seven fire districts and three libraries. Senior centers, health and mental health programs, city bond issues and special road districts are among the other recipients of property taxes

This year, tax bills were sent out the last day of October, about a week earlier than usual. County Collector Diane Diebold said doing so enabled her office to collect 15 percent more in taxes in November than the previous November, helping ease the overload that always occurs as Dec. 31 nears.

She anticipates collecting about $40 million in property taxes this year. If this is a normal year, about 10 percent of that amount is now delinquent but most will be paid during January or February. Taxes could be paid with check, money order, credit card or, if paid in person, cash. The county charges an extra 5 percent for credit card payments.

The penalties for anyone who did not personally pay taxes by Monday or whose mailed taxes were not postmarked by Dec. 31 is 5 percent plus 2 percent per month as long as the taxes are delinquent.

After two years of delinquent real estate taxes, property can be sold at public auction. When taxes are delinquent on vehicles, the collector sends out a notice in March. In May or June the Department of Revenue is notified and the vehicle's plates are suspended. Most people get the taxes paid because they can't license their vehicle without a tax receipt.

Taxpayers' complaints

Diebold hears complaints about taxes most every day, many of them from people who dislike helping to pay for schools they don't have children attending.

Sometimes the complaints are about mistakes. More than 200 tax bills have been abated this year, she says, either due to a reporting mistake by the taxpayer or an error by the assessor. The wrong make of vehicle might be stated, or the vehicle might be listed twice, she said. "It's always good to look at your bill."

Sometimes people have hardships, and her office makes special arrangements with them. She cited the case of a person who is incapacitated and waiting for an organ transplant. The person will be required to pay late penalties but Diebold has worked out a payment schedule over a period of months. "I do what I can, but I can't give them any breaks," she said.

Some wait until the last day to pay because they don't want to trust the transaction to the mail or they want their receipt immediately.

Ronald Moore of Cape Girardeau usually pays his taxes earlier but waited until Dec. 31 this year. "Finances," was his explanation. "It was a tough year."

Tom Schild of Cape Girardeau happened to be off work on the last day to pay taxes. "I just finally got around to it," he said.

He doesn't mind paying the tax. "I'm glad to have the services," he said.

Lovelace Kitchen of Cape Girardeau may have had the best reason of all to be at the collector's office the last day of the year. "I didn't have the money," he said. "I had to rob the piggy bank and use the Christmas money."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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