Home News Local News County treasurer proposes pre-payment option for taxes

County treasurer proposes pre-payment option for taxes

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Property owner Patsy Davidson, at lectern, and County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade, standing behind Davidson, advocate for allowing pre-payments of property taxes to spread out the cost of taxes over the year. The women are seen addressing the Chaves County Board of Commissioners at its Thursday meeting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Chaves County treasurer thinks people should be able to pre-pay their property taxes, which would mean they could make smaller payments during the year rather than one or two larger payments each year.

But Charlotte Andrade’s proposed resolution to effect that change came under intense questioning by Chaves County commissioners.

After four of the five commissioners at a Thursday morning board meeting questioned Andrade extensively about the resolution and possible costs and consequences to the county, they voted unanimously to table the resolution, recommending that some of its wording be changed before it comes before them again for consideration.

Andrade’s idea was not foreseen as a problem to the county, according to comments made by Finance Direct Joe Sedillo and Chief Deputy Assessor Ron Lethgo. Andrade, meanwhile, said it would help some people.

“This would be beneficial to our taxpayers living on fixed incomes as well as low incomes,” she said.

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She explained to commissioners that the county already accepts pre-payments on some mobile home and split-parcel properties and that the proposed resolution would simply, as permitted by New Mexico statute, adopt it for other taxpayers under certain conditions. They would have to owe a minimum of $100 for the year, have a willingness to pre-pay at least 10 percent of their bill — which would be estimated as the previous year’s tax amount — in the first payment, be willing to pay whatever remains owing by the regular due date, and not be paying on a property in escrow.

Andrade said that, throughout her 17 years with the county, she has received calls or inquiries from people asking about the possibility of making payments. One of those people talked with commissioners.

“The lady suggested this would benefit vets and women and — what — seniors, and I qualify for all of them,” said taxpayer Patsy Davidson. “I ask at the office if I could pay by month and I didn’t know that this whole thing is going on. I do hope that you will give it your consideration because, whether you believe it or not, it really is easier to come up with a little bit each month than a big chunk at Christmas.”

Andrade told commissioners that probably 10 percent of the county’s taxpayers would elect the option of pre-payments, and she said that she had talked with staff with counties that have adopted such provisions, including Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Valencia and San Juan, and not heard of any unexpected or negative consequences.

San Juan Deputy Treasurer Carol Taulbee said that the county is its second year of allowing pre-payments and estimates that about 570, or 1 percent, of taxpayers are choosing to make payments.

“The people who utilize the program are telling us that they find it beneficial,” she said, adding that the county wants to increase the number of people making payments in coming years.

She said she thought counties were beginning to offer the option not only because of taxpayers’ requests but because modern software makes it feasible and payments could create a more stable revenue stream, albeit a small one at this time.

Andrade told commissioners that she has been considering how to better serve taxpayers and improve office practices and procedures since taking office in 2017 following the 2016 elections.

“We are trying to make changes that would be positive for Chaves County,” she said. “We are trying to be progressive in our efforts to serve the taxpayers.”

Andrade later told commissioners that other improvements her office plans to make to improve its services include contracting with a new credit card processing company and establishing payment drop-boxes in Roswell and in outlying communities in the county.

The new processing contractor is expected to lower the fee charged for credit card payments, provide online statements and perhaps ease the payment processing time as well. The drop-boxes were described as a needed convenience for some people who find it difficult to walk into the county office or to navigate a narrow drive-through lane at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

Commissioners recommended that the resolution be reworked to state explicitly that taxpayers would have to owe $100 or more to be eligible and that payments would not necessarily have to be made monthly, just at some points prior to the bill coming due.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.