Pay over time

Members of the Lewis County Board of Legislators approved a measure last month to allow residents to pay their property taxes in two installments. Julie Abbas/Watertown Daily Times

End-of-the-year spending can put a strain on household budgets.

There’s all the money spent for presents to give loved ones during the holidays. And many people donate to charitable organizations by Dec. 31. This not only helps out worthy causes, it offers individuals additional deductions on their income taxes the following spring.

So coming up with a single payment for county and town property taxes by late January can be difficult for some homeowners. It would be good for them to have more flexibility to meet this obligation.

The Lewis County Board of Legislators has established a policy to do just this. During their July 2 meeting, members of the board passed a law allowing residents to pay their property taxes in two installments. A public hearing on the issue was held beforehand.

Residents can pay about of what they owe by the Jan. 31 deadline. A 2 percent service charge also will be assessed at this time.

Property owners must then pay the remainder of the outstanding bill by May 31. If everything is paid by this date, taxpayers will incur no interest.

“The service charge collected will be revenue for the respective town as will any interest or penalties collected for late payments until June 1, after which they will go to the county,” according to a story published July 5 by the Watertown Daily Times. “Towns interested in opting into the program for their taxpayers must approve a resolution stating their desire to participate, sending a certified copy to the County Board. Opting into the installment program requires town tax collectors to use the county’s computerized billing and collection system, but that is not an ‘unfunded mandate.’ The new law provides for the county paying all software and system costs for the towns that opt into the system for the first two years of their participation.”

At its sole discretion, the county may choose to pay for towns for any additional years of the program. Taxes paid through a real property tax escrow account will not be eligible. Town boards wishing to participate in the property tax installment program must send their approved resolutions to the county treasurer by Oct. 1.

This is a good move by Lewis County legislators. The program will ease the burden on residents who need additional time to pay their property taxes.

Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties offer installment payments as well, though not all towns take part. We encourage towns throughout Lewis County to make this option available to their residents.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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