LOWVILLE — More than 80 percent of Lewis County towns joined the installment payment program for taxes that was voted into law earlier this year.
The program allows two installments four months apart as an option rather than having only the lump sum payment in January for town and county taxes.
Taxpayers can still pay their entire bills by Jan. 31, however, if a taxpayer can’t or doesn’t want to pay the full amount due, the first payment of about half of the total bill plus a 2% service charge will be due on Jan. 31, with the second half due on May 31 with no interest if paid on time.
“The intent of installment payments is to allow each town to opt into this local law... and thereby afford taxpayers the ability to pay their county and town property taxes timely and not fall into delinquency status,” Local Law No. 2-2019 reads.
Town councils that wanted to join the program had to approve a resolution and notify the county board in order to participate.
Only the towns of Pinckney, Diana and Montague chose to stick with full payments only, each with their own distinct reasons for doing so.
“There were two things that made us decide not to opt in,” said Town of Pinckney Supervisor Sherry Harmych of the town council’s decision. “The first was because our clerk works from home and the internet is very iffy, and the second was because our clerk didn’t really want to make the change and she does such a fabulous job for us, we decided to respect that.”
Ms. Harmych also said that because there are only 633 parcels on the town’s roll and only two farms in operation, it wasn’t clear there would be much interest in using the option.
While the county is subsidizing the software costs for the first two years, Ms. Harmych said the council was concerned about costs after that point, too.
They weren’t alone.
“Our board decided that the added cost down the line and the added work for our treasurer meant it wasn’t worth opting in,” said Montague Supervisor Kurt Riordan.
While the law does say that the “county may... offer to pay” software costs after the initial two year period on behalf of the towns, it is at the county’s discretion.
For the town of Diana, not knowing what the future costs would be was just one part of its decision not to join the installment program.
While the town is still working through the final dissolution of the village of Harrisville, starting another new program seemed daunting.
“We’ve had a lot on our plate and right now it didn’t make sense to do this, but we’ll be watching to see how it goes,” said Diana Supervisor David Parow.
He also said the general consensus on the town council was that they “weren’t very happy” with the county adopting the law first and only asking for feedback after the law was passed, Mr. Parow said, emphasizing that at least the town tax collectors and clerk-collectors should have been consulted before the program was put together.
People will be able to utilize the installment payment option in all other Lewis County towns beginning with the January 2020 town and county tax bills.