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Crawford property taxes due in two fall installments

September 10, 2008
Crawford County property owners will have two dates to pay their annual real estate taxes — Oct. 10 and Nov. 17 — as opposed to an earlier public notice that stated both the spring and fall installments would be due at the same time.

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance failed to approve the county's original due date of Nov. 10, saying the county would have to make available a six-month installment plan to qualified taxpayers — those with homestead credits.

County Auditor Peggy Bullington said the landowners would have had to sign a contract, agreeing to make six equal payments by the 10th of each month from November to April. County Treasurer Edna Brown added that would have created a logistical nightmare, as the county's computer software wouldn't have been able to handle such a process.

Perhaps even more troubling is the county possibly could have lost a significant portion of the revenue since only the November installment could have been settled for this year, while the other five months, according to the DLGF, could not have been settled until after the final installment date in April, they said.

"We probably would have had a shortfall this year and have an excess next year, which you would have had to have fought to see if you could keep or (whether it would have to) go back to the state," Bullington said.

With property taxes rarely being due in May and November, as is tradition, because of delays from the DLGF, in recent years, it has not been uncommon for the county to have a single due date. This is the first time the DLGF has balked at such a proposal.

The County Council late last month, after meeting with officials from the Assessor, Auditor and Treasurer offices in Crawford County, chose to have the traditional spring property tax installment due Oct. 10 and the fall installment due Nov. 17. The two-payment arrangement was approved by the DLGF.

Bullington said the county already will have to fight to keep about $35,000 of last year's tax payment since it didn't get settled until early this year.

"We're in excess levy this year because we didn't get settlement until January," she said, adding, "We have to prove that belongs to us."

Still, Bullington said the decision to go with two payment deadlines before the end of the year instead of the six-month installment plan was a difficult one to make.

"This deadline deal wasn't an easy decision because we knew this six-month (installment plan) would have helped the taxpayer," but it would have created a mess for the county, she said, pointing to the likely shortfall in revenue for the first part of 2009. In turn, that could have meant the county would have had to borrow money to pay its bills, creating a heavier burden on taxpayers since any loan would come with interest.

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Barbara Shaw
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