10 things to know about paying your property taxes

Posted 8/9/19

Chatham County property tax bills have been mailed out, and payments become due in less than a month. But if you’re a Chatham property owner, you may have questions, concerns or curiosities about …

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10 things to know about paying your property taxes

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Chatham County property tax bills have been mailed out, and payments become due in less than a month. But if you’re a Chatham property owner, you may have questions, concerns or curiosities about said bills.

Fortunately for you, we sat down with Chatham County Tax Administrator Jenny Williams and asked her for some of the most important things to know about property taxes, how much you owe, where you should pay them and some specifics about ownership date, paying through escrow and more.

1. The amount you owe probably went up from last year.

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved a tax-rate increase in June as part of the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget, upping the county’s property tax rate from 0.6281 cents to 0.67 cents per $100 of your property’s tax value. A homeowner whose property is worth $200,000 will pay $1,340, up from $1,256.20 last year, and property worth $100,000 will incur tax bill of $670, up from $628.10 last year.

That decision is made each year by the commissioners, usually acting on direction and advice from the county manager. In this year’s budget message, County Manager Dan LaMontagne cited new county expenses — including new schools, a radio system upgrade for public safety personnel and increased construction cost for the new animal shelter — and wrote that “current natural revenue growth can’t absorb these additional costs.”

2. This money will be used for schools, safety and social services.

The total anticipated property tax revenue for this fiscal year is $78,051,165, which makes up more than 61 percent of the county’s annual budget. Thirty-nine cents of each dollar spent on tax payments goes to schools, like Chatham County Schools and Central Carolina Community College, while 18 cents goes toward public safety like the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office. Thirteen cents is used for debt payments and transfers to other funds, while 11 cents each goes toward human services like the Health Department and Social Services and Administration.

3. It’s due September 1, but you have more than four months to pay it.

The first due date for your property tax payment is September 1, and you can pay the bill without interest until January 6. Both of those dates are set by state statute. The window closes on January 5 every year unless that day falls on a weekend — Jan. 5, 2020 is a Sunday.

You can also pre-pay on your taxes. Williams said some people begin making payments toward their property taxes in January of that year.

4. You can pay by mail, in-person or by phone.

The Chatham County Tax Office is located in the Courthouse Annex building, 12 East Street, Pittsboro, on the main floor. You can bring your payment to the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or drop off the payment in a secure lockbox in the parking lot behind the building.

Residents can also pay by mail, sending the payment to Chatham County Tax Collector, P.O. Box 697, Pittsboro, N.C. 2731. You can also pay by phone by calling (919) 542-8260, but credit card payments are subject to a fee.

5. There’s a new way to pay this year: coupons.

Payment coupons have been introduced for the first time this year, and according to Williams, they serve as a “payment plan.” The tax office has split up the payments four ways and residents can pay that way.

“Some people don’t know you don’t have to pay the full amount at once,” she said. “You can make payments. We went ahead and decided it into fourths to simplify it for the public. Some people ask for payment plans — that’s a payment plan.”

6. Don’t worry if you received a bill but you pay your property taxes through escrow with your mortgage company.

The statement you receive is only for your records — you don’t owe anything else. Williams said mortgage companies request that date for their accounts and will pay the bills prior to the end of the calendar year.

7. If you owned the property on January 1, you still pay the taxes on it, even if you sold it in the meantime.

Under state law, property taxes are billed annually under the name of the owner on record as of January 1, so you are responsible for those taxes. Each property owner is required to file a personal property tax listing form in the new county for the upcoming year and notified the property has changed hands.

For real property, state law relieves the seller of liability for property taxes assessed on when the seller transfers the property before the taxes become past due. This law authorizes the Tax Collector to enforce payment by all legal means against the owner of the property (and any subsequent owner) as of the date taxes become past due.

8. You can appeal, but you’ll probably be among a small number.

Like any year, the appeals process is available for those who think their bill is not reflective of their property’s value, but Williams said there will likely be very few appeals this year since it is not a revaluation year.

If you would like to appeal, you must submit the appeal before the Chatham County Board of Equalization and Review adjourns for the year. Appeal forms are located at the Tax Office or online at chathamnc.org/government/departments-programs/tax-office. Hearings take place in the spring.

9. Unlike previous years, there is now just one Solid Waste Fee.

Another change to the tax bill this year is the Solid Waste Fee, applicable to all landowners with dwellings in unincorporated areas of the county. Previous bills had two fees totalling $125 per dwelling, but this year’s bills combine the fees into one $125 payment. In the past, residents who had curbside trash or recycling service were exempt from $34 of that fee, but that has changed.

“With so many different private haulers offering these services throughout the county, there is no efficient system to ensure that all of the correct dwellings were exempt each year,” Williams said. “Chatham County residents who pay the solid waste fee through their property tax bill, by the deadline, should receive decals in the mail. Any resident with a current decal is able to use the collection centers to dispose of trash, bulky items, recyclables and many other items.”

10. The Solid Waste Fee funds various programs and the county’s Collection Centers.

The Solid Waste Fee change is projected to bring the county an additional $210,000 to the Solid Wase & Recycling Enterprise Fund this year. The funds will support the county’s 12 collection centers, household hazardous waste events, tire disposal, curbing illegal dumping, hosting litter clean-ups and putting on educational programming.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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