County treasurer hoping to raise property tax awareness

Sharna Johnson

The Curry County treasurer is hoping by sending tax bills to residents, home owners will review their property taxes and verify everything is in order.

Bernice Baker said her office decided to send property owners a copy of their tax bill this year to help them stay informed about their obligation.

Baker said she thought seeing the tax bills would be a valuable service to property owners that may trigger them to check on or correct issues.

Often people don’t stay aware of their property taxes, expecting mortgage companies are taking care of everything through escrow payments, she said.

But there are times —especially in light of recent turnover in mortgage markets —where loans have been sold to another company or for other reasons, a company doesn’t follow through on escrow payments, she said.

Additionally, a taxpayer may be eligible for exemptions they aren’t aware of.

“Basically it’s for information. We decided this year we would send tax bills out to all the taxpayers so everybody would have that information,” she said. “People should be aware of what they’re paying and they should check up on it.”

Even though taxpayers are ultimately responsible for their tax liability to the county, Baker said it is mortgage companies who contact the treasurer’s office and submit the names for which they are responsible.

Since the treasurers office has no way of knowing who is financing a loan, it’s possible, especially if a note is sold from one company to another, that step is missed and the tax goes unpaid — unbeknownst to a property owner who isn’t checking.

It could be months before the taxpayer realizes what has happened, she said, and by then there are penalties and interest attached to the debt that cannot be removed or adjusted.

Once a bill is three years behind, the state can put the property up for a tax sale.

“So many people don’t even think about it. They think it’s automatically taken care of,” she said. “If the taxpayers don’t check on it every once in a while, it can fall through the cracks very easily.”

Curry County has projected it will collect $6.1 million in property taxes this year, a little more than $300,000 more than last year.

Delinquent taxes of around $230,000 are expected to be collected as well, the county’s budget shows.

Reactions have been mixed since people are not accustomed to it, she said, but, “They’re finding out a lot of things about their taxes that they had no idea about.”

“We’ve had some that are not happy about it because it’s confusing to them, but for those that are glad they got it, I’m glad that we did it.”

The statements were mailed out Oct. 22 and payments for the first half of the year are due Nov. 10. Penalties begin being assessed after Dec. 10, Baker said.

Spring tax bills will be sent out Apr. 10 and are due by May 10.

Baker said any property owner who wants to check the status of their tax and exemptions is encouraged to call her office.

Curry County Treasurer: 763-3931