Taxpayers in McDuffie County have opened their wallets sooner than necessary this year, and everybody's benefitting.
Because the tax digest was late getting out in 2009, the due date for property tax payments is not until February, and the lack of incoming cash was beginning to cause problems for local governments.
Tax Commissioner Sandra Whitaker was able to present the local school system with about $2,346,000 before the year ended, however.
"People have been just real good about coming in and paying before the end of the year, even though the due date isn't until February," Mrs. Whitaker said. "So, it's really been a help to the school system and the county and the city of Thomson. A lot of the mortgage companies have sent their payments in where a lot of them normally wait until the due date, too."
Under normal circumstances each year, the school system uses money set aside in fund balance to cover expenses until ad valorem tax money starts rolling in. At that time, the fund balance is replenished. Because tax collections were delayed two months, the fund balance was depleted before revenue came in.
To make ends meet, the school system secured a Tax Anticipation Notice loan through SunTrust bank. The balance of the loan was due Dec. 31, so school officials asked Mrs. Whitaker whether they could get their portion of all the money that had been paid up to that point.
The tax commissioner was able to give the school systems two checks: one on Dec. 18 for $489,912 and another on Dec. 31 for $1,855,952.
"We are extremely appreciative of the many homeowners who elected to pay their tax bills prior to the new year," school Superintendent Jim LeBrun said in an e-mail. "Not only did this assist them with their declared tax expense on their personal income taxes, it definitely helped the school system to pay off our local TAN before the end of the year as required by law.
"The ability to pay off the first phase of the TAN by Dec. 31 prevented our system from having an audit finding which could ultimately adversely affect our bond rating."
Mrs. Whitaker said two-thirds of the digest came in before the end of the year.
Linda Thurmond, who became McDuffie County's chief tax appraiser in December, said her top priority would be to make sure the tax digest is prepared on time from now on.