Supervisor wants treasurer to collect more taxes

By Allen Worrell -

Having to vote to approve a revenue anticipation note in October has not gone over well with one member of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, who wants the county to do more to collect delinquent taxes.

During the board’s November 14 meeting, Pipers Gap District Supervisor Tom Littrell asked to open a discussion on a subject he called very important to the financial health of Carroll County. Littrell said he voted in October to approve the revenue anticipation note, which is similar to a line of credit. The vote came, he said, after Carroll County Treasurer Bonita Williams forecast the cash flow in the county would be insufficient to meet the county’s financial obligations in the near future.

“This condition would be corrected later as real estate and personal property taxes were collected. In the meantime, however, Carroll County, without the revenue anticipation note, might have been forced to initiate a government shutdown, which would mean we would be unable to pay employees, their salaries, electric bills and other expenses of the county,” Littrell said. “I really was not in favor of the motion to approve the revenue anticipation note, but I also knew that we had to do that in order to pay our expenses.”

Littrell said there is a cost to having a revenue anticipation note because you have to pay a certain amount plus the interest of any of that amount that is used. He said he didn’t want to vote for it because it ends up costing the county additional money from its budget, which is already tight. It’s tight, he said, because the county can’t tap into $5 million of its own money.

“You might ask where is that $5 million? That is the latest total of uncollected delinquent taxes on our books. According to today’s list, there is a little bit over $2 million in uncollected personal property tax and about $2.9 million in uncollected real estate tax,” Littrell said. “The percent of taxes collected has decreased from the high 90s within the last 10 years to 93 percent on last year’s tax year. I must ask why we are only collecting about 93 percent? Are we sending out past due bills on a timely basis?”

Littrell then shared a personal experience that recently happened to him regarding his last question. As treasurer of his church, the supervisor said he recently received a county tax ticket for the church van and paid the $25 on Oct. 16 of this year. Within a week or so, he received a receipt for the $25 payments. Enclosed was also a bill for the 2016 tax on the same church van, which was now $28.66 with penalty and interest. Thinking there must be a mistake, Littrell said he searched his records and found he had paid tax on the vehicle for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

“I found that the 2016 tax was not paid,” Littrell said. “I have no idea how that happened, but my question is why did it take 10 months to receive a second billing? Are there other unpaid taxes that have not been billed and sent out in a timely fashion?”

According to Virginia’s tax code, the board of supervisors is supposed to receive a list of delinquent taxes each year, Littrell said before reading from the code. Littrell said the code states that by August 1 of each year, the treasurer must prepare several lists showing uncollectable taxes and delinquents as of June 30. Those lists include real estate taxes, tangible property taxes and several others, Littrell said. He noted the treasurer is also supposed to submit those lists to the board of supervisors at the first meeting after the completion of the list.

“I have been on the board almost 10 years now and I only remember getting that list once. And if you will notice the code says must – not may or might,” Littrell said. “And I have some questions for the treasurer. Number one, why are our percentages of paid taxes on time only about 93 percent when historically it has been in the high 90s? Number two, why aren’t past due tickets being sent out in a timely manner? Number three, why isn’t the board of supervisors receiving a list of uncollected taxes on a yearly basis as demanded by the code of Virginia? If we collected only one half of the uncollected taxes on the books, we would have not needed the revenue anticipation note that would have saved the county, ultimately, money.”

Littrell said he has had taxpayers ask him why they have to pay their taxes when so many other people are not paying their taxes.

“My last information I want to give you is I feel like if I don’t point out the problem, I become part of the problem,” Littrell said.

Carroll County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Martin said the board has had extensive discussions about lowering taxes, but it seems to going the other way.

“And part of the problem Dr. Littrell just gave the case is people have to pay their taxes. The second part of that equation is I think the board in the very near future is going to start taking a long, hard at expenses, and if you can get revenues up and expenses down, it allows the board to do a lot of things,” Martin said. “I can tell you I think you will see this board going in a different direction and soon.”

Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN

By Allen Worrell