When it’s the actions of Cleveland and Bradley County residents — many of them registered voters — then it’s a sign that something is either very right or very wrong.
In this case, it is an unprecedented right.
We refer to the 3-year-old partial payment plan instituted by the Bradley County Trustee’s Office that allows local taxpayers the opportunity to pay their property taxes in monthly installments — kind of like a bill or bank loan — instead of the more painful once-a-year lump sum that often takes an uncomfortable bite out of homeowners’ checkbooks.
This is not the first time we have addressed this innovative aid provided by a branch of Bradley County government, and likely it won’t be the last. But the partial payment plan — instituted by Trustee Mike Smith — returns to our Editorial Page because as 2012 came to a close, the program reached its five-year goal ... in only three years.
In our Dec. 30 edition, we announced 507 parcels of land have now been accepted into the monthly payment plan. When Smith and his forward-thinking staff designed it in cooperation with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, it was one of the first of its kind to be implemented in our state.
For any who might have questioned its need — and we know of few, if any — the proof is in the statistical pudding. In three short years, more than 500 Bradley County parcels of property have been signed up by taxpayers who understand the value of a dollar and whose household challenge is to spread it as far as it will go.
Frankly, the partial payment plan for property taxes is one of the finest outreaches by area government to its constituents of which we are aware.
It is no secret.
Some households struggle. In most cases, it comes as no fault of their own. Most are hardworking, law-abiding citizens whose lives are dominated by the day-to-day tasks of making ends meet. Sometimes they have good months. Sometimes they’re not so good. When a lump-sum property tax payment comes due, chances are it won’t be a good one for families living paycheck to paycheck.
Although the Bradley County trustee reports he won’t be setting a new goal for the next year, three years, five or beyond, the truth is none will be needed. That’s because area taxpayers have spoken. They like the partial payment plan, they’re thankful that it is being made available and they hope it will continue.
So do we.
It is not just about an economy that has struggled since late 2007.
It is not just about a 6.8 percent unemployment rate which — although it is an improvement — still has some improving to do.
It is not just about rising costs at every corner.
It is not just about politically influenced uncertainties over federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
It is not just about availability, and affordability, of health insurance.
It is not just about saving enough money to send the kids to college.
It is not just about making the monthly mortgage payments.
It is not just about parents trying to create a better life for their children, grandchildren and generations down the road.
It is about a government reaching out to its people with a hand-up, one that says, “We know life can be hard. This is our way of helping you to help yourself. It is not a handout. It is not a gift. It is a partnership.”
And it is a good partnership.
For families who struggle with that once-a-year, lump-sum property tax payment, we encourage you to seek the Trustee Office’s counsel and to learn more about this people-friendly program.
A new partial payment plan enrollment is now under way. It will continue through Feb. 8.
We urge its consideration if such consideration is a family need.