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Ask us: How does Rowan County government collect property taxes?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

For those who don’t pay taxes, a process that begins in January with an assessment could end with wage garnishment or foreclosure more than a year later.

A reader asked the Post about the process for paying property taxes, including how long people have to pay and enforcement action.

For the current fiscal year, Rowan County government projected a tax base of $13.76 billion within its boundaries, including real and personal property as well as vehicles. But the tax base is far above what Rowan County government receives through collections.

For this and the previous fiscal year, which ended in June, the tax rate is 65.75 cents per $100 in valuation. That resulted in about $87.7 million in property tax revenue for county government in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Property owners can also face taxes from city and town governments as well as fire districts, which use the revenue to provide service in unincorporated areas.

In his budget message presented in May, County Manager Aaron Church projected a tax collection rate of 96.50%, which was a decrease of 1.25% from the prior year and based on expected financial difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the reader question, Tax Collector Tonya Parnell said a good economy generally comes with a 98.7% or 98.9% collection rate. Her office collects taxes for county government as well as all municipalities and fire districts.

Parnell said taxpayers are required to list their personal and business personal property in January, when the tax office conducts an assessment. In conjunction with the passage of a budget, municipal and county governments as well as fire districts must have a tax rate set by June 30 of each year. A new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Parnell said the tax office mails bills in mid-July, offering discounts if paid before Sept. 1.

“We do look at post-mark at the end of the month to determine when the payment was mailed,” she said in an email. “The tax bills are due with base amount on Sept. 1, and you have until Jan. 5 to pay without penalty.”

Because of COVID-19, the Tax Collector’s Office is asking people to make payments online, which comes with a convenience fee, or place the payment in a dropbox on the side of the building facing F&M Bank.

A 2% late penalty is added on Jan. 6, with another three-fourths of a percent being added each month after that.

In March and for bills sent roughly eight months earlier, Parnell said, the tax office begins “enforced collections.” That could include garnishment of wages and other action.

When wages are garnished, employers deduct 10% of an employee’s gross wages each payday until outstanding taxes are paid in full.

Enforcement action also comes with a $60 fee.

A list of people who haven’t paid their taxes is published in the Salisbury Post in June — nearly a year after bills were sent out. After the list is published, the Tax Collector’s Office begins its foreclosure process. Though, Parnell said staff members try to work with taxpayers before the process begins.

For more information about the Rowan County Tax Collector’s Office or paying taxes, visit rowancountync.gov/201/Tax-Collector. The Tax Collector’s Office is located at 402 N. Main St., Suite 101, in Salisbury.

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