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County passes on giving late payers an interest break

Taylor County taxpayers will be expected to pay the second installment of their property tax bills by the end of July or face interest penalities like normal.

The county board took no action in waiving interest penalities as allowed under a recent state law. The law was designed to give property owners financialy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic additional time to pay the second half of their property taxes by delaying the settlements between the county, schools and municipalities and deferring the interest charged until Oct. 7.

At the May 21 finance committee and again at Tuesday’s county board session, treasurer Sara Holtz advised against making any changes noting it would require changes to be made to the county’s software, but more importantly would delay tax funds going to municipalities.

“They need that money for culverts, gravel and all the COVID-19 stuff,” Holtz said, noting that for some districts the tax settlement money is necessary for start of school expenses. Of the approximately $10 million in property tax payments that will be collected, the county turns over $6.4 million to the other taxing entities in the fall with the county retaining $3.89 million for its own needs.

“We have big bills we are paying during summer months too,” she said.

She said the law was primarily for larger counties whose populations were more impacted by layoffs. That hasn’t been the case in Taylor County where except for some non-essential businesses, most people have been working. She also noted that even if the county decided to adopt it, it would be up to the local municipalities to each adopt the same changes, something she said was doubtful.

She said of the 72 counties only five have moved forward with it while over half have said they will absolutely not do it. Board member Lester Lewis agreed and said the Wisconsin Towns Asscoation is advising towns to not adopt it.

Board member Scott Mildbrand said he had a soft spot for small business owners and was concerned about them having the burden after the state shut them down for two months.

Holtz said of three business owners that have contacted her, one has paid their taxes, the other received a small business loan that will help and they are working with the third to set up payments. Holtz noted that the taxes are not a new expense for anyone and that they have had the tax bills since last December.

“They didn’t know the state would be coming in and shutting their business down,” Mildbrand said.

“I understand the hardship,” said board member Tim Hansen, however, he noted that there are two and a half months until the taxes are due and businesses have been opened.