by Emmitt B. Feldner
for The Beacon
The waiver of late payment penalties on property tax payments, a measure of COVID-19 relief, will be extended another year.
The County Board, meeting by teleconference Tuesday, approved keeping the waiver in place for 2020 tax bills due in 2021.
The late payment interest, 1 ½ percent per month, was waived last year by the board for 2019 property taxes after the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March.
The board adopted the ordinance extending the waiver, introduced by the Finance Committee, without referring it to a second committee as is the usual practice.
County Treasurer Laura Henning-Lorenz, in a memo to the supervisors, explained that immediate adoption, “will provide relief to … taxpayers at the earliest time possible.”
It would also prevent having to refund penalty payments that might be made if the ordinance was not adopted until March.
Finance Director Wendy Charnon estimated that the waiver could save county taxpayers a total of $100,000 to $120,000 in penalties and interest.
• • •
County Administrator Adam Payne gave his annual “State of the County” address to the board.
“2020 was the year of COVID. It was a very challenging year for all of us (and) that is an understatement,” Payne began.
“I fully gained an even higher level of respect and appreciation for our (county) staff,” Payne said of the year’s experience dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The collaboration with the business community has been absolutely key to our success. Many pillars of our community stepped up,” to help with the response to the virus, Payne continued.
The administrator listed the measures the county took to meet the crisis, both internally and for the community as a whole.
He also noted that the pandemic cost the county “upwards of $4.3 million in additional expenses and reduced revenues.”
The county was able to recoup that amount, primarily from federal CARES Act funds. “Obviously, that helped,” Payne told the board.
That enabled the county to continue what Payne termed its “outstanding fiscal track record.”
That included a tax levy increase in the 2021 budget of 1.56 percent, in line with the average annual increase of 1.24 percent over the past decade, and a 4.98 percent decrease in the property tax rate.
And the county was able to maintain a healthy reserve fund, Payne added.
Summing up, Payne commented, “It’s been a demanding year for all of us. We’ve probably all gained something from this experience.
“You can feel the optimism, you can feel that we’re starting to turn the corner,” Payne concluded. “I’m feeling encouraged about where we’re at.”
Correction: Savings to taxpayers came from Finance Director Wendy Charnon, not County Treasurer Laura Henning-Lorenz, as stated in original version.