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County authorizes monthly payments on property taxes

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Chaves County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade, right, says she and her staff have been developing ideas to improve service for property tax customers. On Thursday, the county authorized allowing monthly or regular payments on tax bills. From left are Chief Deputy Treasurer Toni Gomez, Deputy Treasurer Mary Ann Williams, Deputy Treasurer Krystal Gonzales and Senior Accountant Oralia Pena. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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In spite of continued opposition from the chair of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, a resolution has passed that will allow most taxpayers in the county to start making monthly or periodic payments on their property taxes instead of being allowed to pay only once or twice a year.

“It is going to be beneficial to people who are on fixed incomes,” said Chaves County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade. “We have people who are veterans or seniors who are on fixed incomes and they often ask, ‘Can I make some payments on my taxes?’”

The Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the action at its Thursday meeting, 4 to 1.

Chair Robert Corn dissented, having expressed concern about the resolution when it was first discussed in February. He said Thursday that he thought the monthly payments would increase labor and budget costs as Treasurer Office staff had to process more transactions.

Corn estimated that staff hours would increase at least 400 hours and possibly by more than 800 hours a year if 1 percent of the county’s customers opted for monthly payments. But Andrade, who estimated that there were 40,000 tax accounts, said she did not foresee significant labor increases because payments can be made online and by phone and because the computer systems are already set up to process partial payments, which are required now for mobile-home owners and taxpayers with split parcels.

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Andrade stressed that she thought the change was needed to benefit county residents.

“Even if it is only five people, then that is five people we have assisted,” she told commissioners.

She also said in a later interview that it will benefit business customers, including dairies, which can owe tens of thousands in taxes a year.

“I’ve talked with some people who like this concept so that they can budget monthly payments,” agreed Commissioner James Duffey prior to the board vote.

Payments can be made monthly or regularly beginning in June, Andrade said, but the biannual payment still must be paid in full by Nov. 10 and April 10. The periodic payment option is available to all property tax customers except those owing less than $100, those whose property is involved in a mortgage escrow, or those accounts, such as for railroads or utilities, that are state-assessed, although collected by the county.

Andrade anticipates visiting senior centers and community organizations to let people know about the option, as well as getting the word out via news media, websites and social media.

Andrade said that she sees this development as part of a larger effort she and her staff of four have undertaken since she was elected to office in 2017 to improve customer service.

In addition to the payment option, the office has contracted with a new vendor that will process credit card payments for a lower fee. Customers now can pay by mail and online, and the office is working to establish an 800 phone number with service available for Spanish and English speakers. Andrade said she also intends to create drop boxes around the county to allow customers to make non-cash payments.

Coming into the office or driving to the drop box is not always a good choice for the elderly or the disabled, she said.

She also said she intends to add more information about tax processes and payments on the treasurer’s page of the county website, co.chaves.nm.us.

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