By RICK NORTON
Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith’s projection to sign up the 1,440th participant by the end of the current enrollment period in the growing partial payment program appears to be headed for …
Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith’s projection to sign up the 1,440th participant by the end of the current enrollment period in the growing partial payment program appears to be headed for reality.
With less than two weeks remaining before the registration deadline, the Trustee’s Office has added another 46 parcels during the current sign-up that started Jan. 3. This brings the total to 1,430.
Deadline for enrolling in the tax-installment program is Friday, Feb. 9.
“At this rate, we’re expecting to hit that 1,440 mark,” Smith said. “But what is most important is that’s just a number. These numbers represent people and parcels, and these people are Bradley County citizens who need the kind of tax help that this partial pay plan provides.”
A part of the property tax payment fabric since 2010, partial payment is a homeowner-friendly option that allows Bradley County residents to avoid the conventional, and higher, once-per-year, lump-sum payment. Instead, taxpayers are allowed to pay in smaller, equal sums.
In most cases, participants choose a monthly payment, but other options are available, such as quarterly payments or twice a year, or some other frequency that is negotiated between the property owner and the Trustee’s Office.
Whichever option is chosen, taxpayers — in the end — still pay the full tax-due amount. But with partial payment, they are allowed to meet their tax obligations in smaller chunks.
Taxpayer interest in partial payment continues to grow, especially among elderly home- and property owners who have less spending power because of fixed incomes. It was actually this group of residents who approached Smith with the idea eight years ago.
“Citizens began asking us if we could develop some options that would make it easier for them to meet their property-tax obligations,” Smith reflected. “They told our office staff they are perfectly willing to pay their taxes — and they truly are — but more and more were finding it difficult to pay that larger lump sum once per year.”
The trustee called it a “cash flow” issue in which some taxpayers found it more doable to spread their payments across the course of the year — whether monthly, quarterly, biannually or in some other combination.
Even in its infancy, the partial payment plan became an instant hit. Smith’s original goal was to sign up at least 500 participants over the first five years. In only three, the target was met and easily eclipsed. Since then, the list of enrollees has continued to grow in spite of natural offsets like the deaths of elderly participants or the sale of taxpayers’ property.
Smith pointed to the importance of two government entities whose approval was required before the partial payment plan could be enacted: the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller and the Bradley County Commission.
“Just like our office staff, these folks — the comptroller and the county fathers — recognized the need back in 2010, and they took action,” Smith said. “That’s the way government should work — stay aware of the needs of the people, listen to what they have to say, and then — if at all humanly possible — do something to help ease their pain.”
Taxes can be paid by check, credit card, debit card, cash or automatic withdrawal. Residents can pay their taxes by sending their checks in the mail or by visiting the trustee’s temporary office currently located in the former SouthEast Bank building at the corner of 17th and Keith streets.
Details about the partial payment program, or other tax-related options, can be obtained by visiting the Trustee’s office or by calling 423-728-7248.
Trustee’s Office hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
Two additional tax programs operated by the Trustee’s Office include the tax relief and tax freeze plans. Contact the office for details about both programs.
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