In its history, Johnston County has never been better at collecting taxes.
Last fiscal year, which ended June 30, the county recorded a 99.84-percent collection rate, bringing in $105,453,200.78 of a levied $105,623,956.60. In doing so, Johnston saw its collection rate improve more than a percentage point in a decade.
Taxes on real estate and personal property make up most of the county’s operating revenue, and while governments have an array of legal and financial penalties at their disposal to get their money, an envelope in the mail might not be persuasive to everyone. But by and large, Johnston residents pony up on time, and Commissioner DeVan Barbour said that’s good for everyone.
“For anyone that doesn’t know, that rate is just unheard of,” Barbour said. “And it is one of the reasons we’re able to keep the tax rate low.”
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Johnston hasn’t raised its tax rate of 78 cents per $100 of assessed value in 14 years, thanks to property revaluation and a tax base that’s expanded by 60,000 residents since 2000.
The county has gotten better at collecting taxes as well. In 2006, the collection rate was 98.3, and it remained fairly steady until 2014, when it jumped to 99.5. It’s increased the past two years to 99.84.
Commissioner Cookie Pope gave credit to county tax administrator Sheila Garner and her office.
“You’re doing a great job, and that hasn’t always been the case in the tax office,” Pope said. “I don’t get the calls I used to get.”
In early January, 90 percent of the county’s taxes had been paid on time, leaving $9.8 million delinquent. By then end of the fiscal year, the balance was just $170,755.82.
Garner’s office brought in $2,877,138.21, or 2.72 percent of the total tax levy, through enforcement actions, some a letter taped to a door, others wage garnishments.
Last year, the county cleared 420 tax bills through garnishments and another 281 through bank attachments, collectively netting nearly a half million dollars for the county. The collections office set up payment plans for 831 accounts for $1,084,164.82.
If tax bills go unpaid for multiple years, the county resorts to foreclosures. Last year, the county sold 10 properties, and owners recovered five more, totaling $45,185.77 in collections.
Garner said the county can’t collect money from residents going through bankruptcy, which shielded 168 accounts for a total of $18,272.95. Last year, bankruptcy filings protected 222 properties from the county’s tax office for a total of $31,872.98.
The state treasurer’s office declared Johnston’s collection rate the highest in North Carolina counties with 100,000 or more residents, and Johnston rate ranked second among all counties.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson