Property taxes are often the lifeblood of local community funding, making it imperative that local governments stay on top their collection. Onslow County, North Carolina, is finding out the hard way what poor debt collection
practices can lead to, according to the Jacksonville Daily News. The paper reports that Onslow County accumulated a $3.5 million shortfall in 2010 due to insufficient tax collection.
The shortcoming has been two years in the making, with the county's 5,784 properties collectively owing more than $5.4 million between 2009 and 2010. The lack of property taxes is having tangible effects on local services, including the ability to properly fund public schools and public safety institutions. Onslow County tax administrator Harry Smith told the Daily News that while the rate of taxes received inched upward in 2010, it is imperative for residents to pay their taxes on time. Though the amount owed varies with each property, the Jacksonville Daily News reports that Charlotte-based real estate developers R.A. North owe the county more than $700,000. A similar problem is plaguing Bradley County, Tennessee, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The County Commission's Finance Committee reports that the county is approximately $6.8 million short of its necessary funding for the new budget that begins on July 1. Part of Bradley County's shortfall is due to poor debt collection on property taxes, but local lawmakers also find borrowing to be very difficult under the current tax code, the news source reports. However, there was a bit of good news that came from the commission, which reported that collection increased by approximately $438,000 in 2010. That represents a 90.2 percent collection rate - up 0.6 percent from the previous year. Much like Onslow County, Bradley County officials state increased funds are needed to repair local schools. According to the Times Free Press, county school board chairman Troy Weathers said an additional $400,000 is needed for maintenance at the middle and high schools. Commissioner Robert Rominger warned that a vote on a tax increase may be necessary to supply residents with expected services. "It looks like we are not ready to vote on a tax increase," Rominger told the paper. "I think people are going to ask what they are getting for their money."