Nevada County property tax on par despite pandemic
By the numbers
As of May 11
Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 41
Number in western county: 12
Number in eastern county: 29
Number of active cases: zero
Number of recoveries: 40
Number of deaths: 1
Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus
Fees for late property tax payments can be waived through next year for people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Nevada County residents are eager to take advantage.
Following a state executive order last week suspending requirements to enforce late payments fees, the county has seen an increase in people applying for waivers, Treasurer-Tax Collector Tina Vernon said.
According to Vernon, because the county has not seen an uptick in payment delinquencies the increase in applications may be attributed to more people knowing about the waiver program or the state expanding eligibility to include financial hardship from the ongoing pandemic.
“We are seeing a bigger influx of penalty waivers. However, I’m not seeing any increase in delinquencies,” Vernon said. “Surprisingly, we’re right on target as far as second installments.”
The county has collected about 96% of property tax payments — $122.5 million of its $128 million tax roll — which is on par with the previous year.
Vernon said the order brought some clarity to a confusing situation, but the county is still seeking further guidance.
“We were flying blind up until this time as far as penalty waivers,” she said. “We wanted to do our part in helping the community get through this COVID-19 pandemic, but all of us were very concerned that based on the code section that we couldn’t waive the fee for financial hardship, but now we can.”
While some residents have called for payments to be suspended, Vernon said she wouldn’t advocate for that even if it were in the county’s power due to how significantly property taxes contribute to the budget.
“Unlike state and federal taxes where people pay with every paycheck, counties that rely on property taxes for most of their services don’t pre-collect,” Vernon said. “It’s imperative for our function to fund the services we provide through property taxes.”
However, despite the influx of applications, according to Vernon many are not qualifying, often for simply not following the instructions.
HOW TO APPLY
Approved applicants would be able to waive penalty fees and interest until May 6, 2021, which includes both of next year’s payment installments.
In order to qualify, applicants must occupy their residential property or operate and own a commercial property that qualifies as a small business according to Small Business Administration federal regulations. The taxes owed must also not have been delinquent prior to March 4. People have to apply before June 30 and must be able to document that they were affected physically or financially by COVID-19.
Examples of supporting documentation include physicians or medical staff notes, hospital release forms, and notification from employers of reduced business.
People must also pay any existing property tax obligations at the time they submit their waiver application.
People unable to pay before the deadline can request a payment plan after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. After July 1 delinquent accounts are charged 1.5% interest per month plus a $15 redemption fee.
Vernon said county staff is available by phone to help anyone through the process: 530-265-1285.
“We’re trying to work with the public and be as flexible as possible within the letter of the law and do the right thing for those who are suffering,” Vernon said.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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The current level of active construction in western Nevada County is normal for this time of year, according to Barbara Bashall, government affairs manager with the Nevada County Contractors’ Association.