Although local residents might drain their bank accounts to settle up on unpaid taxes, at the very least they won’t drain the gas tank. That’s the whole idea behind Trustee Mike Smith’s satellite locations — to bring the tax collection process closer to the neighborhoods.
“The satellite locations have been very popular with taxpayers,” Smith said. “They have eliminated the need for citizens to come to the Courthouse and they have allowed property owners to pay their property taxes closer to home.”
The satellite sites were launched seven years ago.
Bradley County home and property owners who haven’t yet paid their taxes at the Courthouse have four satellite options Saturday.
From 9 a.m. to noon, local taxpayers can deliver their checks — with tax statements — to Oak Grove Elementary School, Hopewell Elementary School, Waterville Elementary School and to Bradley Square Mall near the central fountain.
Cash payments cannot be accepted at the satellites, but there’s no limit on personal checks.
Anyone who misses the satellite opportunity Saturday still has a chance to avoid the Courthouse visit on Saturday, Feb. 22. On that date, also from 9 a.m. to noon, a tax-receiving satellite will be set up again at Bradley Square Mall, but this time near the Kmart entrance. On the same day, the Trustee’s Office will be open to accept tax payments during the same three-hour morning period.
“We began having satellite locations in 2007,” Smith said.
The non-Courthouse sites immediately captured the attention of local taxpayers who liked the idea of shorter distances and not facing the traffic congestion and limited parking of the Courthouse Square. Most agree downtown Cleveland is a beautiful center of Bradley County’s heart, but it’s not always motorist friendly — which is a common trait in cities that boast a thriving downtown.
Smith pointed to a change made in 2012 to the satellite site alternative. The change began allowing the handful of satellites to operate on the same day and during the same hours.
Over the past few years, Smith has shown no reluctance to bring innovation into the taxpaying process. And in some cases, new Trustee’s Office programs are the result of public requests.
One example is the partial payment program whose registration deadline came a week ago. The idea originated in 2010 and it was launched the following calendar year.
“A few taxpayers’ request in 2010 for an easier and more convenient way to pay their property taxes in a slow economy, has resulted in a very popular program that has now spread among other counties across the state,” Smith said. “We are glad we can offer this service to Bradley County and look forward to its continued growth in the future.”
Like the satellite sites, the idea for a partial payment plan caught fire with local taxpayers in the early going. To date, 745 parcels are now enrolled in the process. It grew over the past couple of months as 170 more residents signed up for the initiative during two enrollment periods in December and January.
A partial payment plan is also offered for delinquent taxes as long as they are still overseen by the Trustee’s Office, Smith said.
Partial pay programming is managed by David Swallows, deputy trustee.
“David has done a great job administering these programs and keeping the community informed about its deadlines, how to sign up and how they can become a good fit for families who need this kind of installment assistance,” Smith said.
Essentially, the partial payment plan operates like a loan which is paid back in equal amounts over a period of time. With partial pay, Bradley County taxpayers have the option of breaking down their property taxes into smaller amounts that are paid either monthly, every other month, quarterly or biannually as opposed to the conventional once-a-year lump sum payment.
A strength of partial pay is that it is a customized pay plan that is designed by the taxpayer and the Trustee’s Office. Staff can provide customers historical data about their taxes, but in the end the frequency of payments, and their amounts, are decided by the taxpayer.
Questions about the satellite sites and the partial payment plan may be directed to the Trustee’s Office at 728-7247. Area residents may also drop in for a visit without an appointment.
The Trustee’s Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located in Suite 104 (ground-level floor) of the Courthouse at 155 North Ocoee St.