By Debbie Hall
As the Patrick County Board of Supervisors worked last week to address a nearly $900,000 deficit in the budget, they considered an email from a resident who asked for a no-penalty extension to pay their county taxes.
Jane Fulk, board chairman, read the email aloud.
With many businesses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the writer noted that many people are out of work and getting food from food banks. Still others are living on fixed incomes.
“These taxes, when created, were for a short period of time. Taxes are going up when people’s income isn’t going up. I would hope that an extension would be given without penalty if you really want the support of Patrick County,” Fulk read.
“We received this email today, but we have had other discussions regarding this, and we don’t have any resources,” Fulk said. “We don’t have extra money. We would love to do something for our citizens in this regard, but what are they willing to give up?”
Patrick County Treasurer Sandra Stone said her office also has received similar calls. She recalled one in particular.
“By the time I got the call, the comment was ‘do you not care about us?’ My comment to them was, ‘it’s not that we don’t care, but unfortunately, our county was not in a good position before this (pandemic) ever happened. The comment that I made to them I would also like to make known to other citizens, if you’re having issues, if you’re having a hardship, if you’re having a situation, then come and see me.”
Stone added that she does not have the authority to waive the penalty.
As long as the county has an ordinance which specifies the collection of a penalty, “I am required by code (state law) to collect” the penalty, Stone said. “But if you can make payments, that will alleviate the penalty being on the full amount” of the tax bill.
She noted that currently, the bill is divided in half, with one payment due by June 5 and the other due by Dec. 5.
Because the due dates are the same each year, “hopefully people knew this was coming and they have already made some provisions” to make the payments, she said.
Others have asked if the county could waive the tax payments entirely.
“The best thing that I can tell them is our county is not in a position to waive this revenue. I think it would cause far more damage in the long run to try and recover from that than it would help” in the short term, “and I say that with all of the love and respect that I know how, because I do understand that there are some hardships out there,” Stone said.
“I do hope that people realize that we have always been willing to work with people, but you have to let me know and you have to be willing to honor your payment plan,” she said. “You have to be willing to do what you can do.”
While some tell her “you let us get in this situation,” Stone explained that is not true. She added that she can receive the revenue that is paid into the county, and if the board approves an expense, she must allow funds to be spent to pay those expenses.
Stone also recalled that she attended supervisor meetings on many occasions, and explained her concerns about the financial issues to the board.
“Debt is our problem. If we didn’t have to pay all the debt, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now, but as the old saying goes, deal with it, however we’ve got to deal with it, but I hope people will know that they can contact me,” Stone said. “I’m always willing to work with anyone. If you’re willing, I’m willing.”
Stone can be reached by calling the Treasurer’s Office at (276) 694-7257.