Prince Edward County not ready to split up tax payments

Published 1:56 am Friday, January 13, 2023

Before Prince Edward County considers changing when personal property taxes are due, multiple things would need to take place. Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley referenced that during the Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in response to a letter county officials received from a resident. 

The person in question, along with several others who wrote to The Herald and commented on social media over the last month, asked county officials to consider changing the due date from Dec. 5 to June 5. They argued that December is a hard time for families to pay their tax bill, as it’s right before Christmas and this just adds another financial strain. 

By switching, families could “utilize tax refunds to support paying their personal property tax, which would help many families not have additional financial strain during the holiday season,” wrote Prince Edward County resident Emma Webb. 

Prince Edward County not ready

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This year, the board of supervisors kept the Dec. 5 due date, but gave some leeway, allowing residents to pay up until Jan. 5, 2023 without any penalties. Part of the reason for that is because the county was late in getting bills out, with some arriving after Nov. 15. 

Stanley cautioned that some suggested changes, such as splitting bill due dates up, would require more staff. That means higher expenses, which have to be budgeted for. 

“I certainly wouldn’t recommend it (now), but I would once we get our house in order,” Stanley said. “Certainly splitting it up so it doesn’t hit all at Christmastime would help.” 

He also agreed that if bills arrived after people got their tax refund, it would make things easier as well. 

Issues involved with multiple payments

Several other Virginia counties, including neighboring Cumberland, handle taxes by splitting the bills up. They break the payment in half, sending two bills. The first comes around June and the second, lower amount comes in October or November. The idea is to lower the burden near the end of the year. 

However, switching to twice a year can create new problems, rather than just solving old ones. In previous discussions, Stanley pointed out that in order to send out a June tax payment, that means the tax rate and budget would have to be adopted by April, regardless of what happens with the General Assembly. By comparison, this past year, Prince Edward didn’t adopt a budget until June. And adopting a budget early, without knowing what the Assembly will give or take from counties, doesn’t always work. You would be going into the next year blind, and then be forced to adjust, based on whatever late decisions the state made. 

Board of Supervisors member Cannon Watson agreed that the county needs to wait until its ready to make a change like this. 

“No rule or law or policy is any good unless you can execute it,” Watson said. “Obviously (we can) work toward it, but there’s no point in trying to do it if we don’t think we can pull it off.”