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As the New Year arrives, the Scotland County Collector’s Office will be able to pause and catch its collective breath after the traditional swell of year-end traffic as 2014 came to a close.

The majority of Scotland County taxpayers held on to their money as long as they could, before flocking to the collector’s office last week to pay their 2014 personal property and real estate taxes to support the local tax districts.

After recording roughly $589,000 in tax payments in the entire month of November, last week’s five-day total of $2,361,225, quickly quantifies the traffic level spike as the December 31st deadline drew near.

“It used to be even busier,” said Collector Kathy Becraft. “I think more  people are paying earlier, but the majority still wait until the last week.”

The final day, New Year’s Eve, is traditionally slow as customers are likely unsure if the office is open all day, or closed at noon like many other businesses for the holiday.

Becraft noted her office has seen a significant increase in the number of payments received by mail.

Regardless of the payment method, Becraft simply stressed the importance of paying taxes on time.

“I hate to see people coming in after the first of the year, saying ‘I forgot’,” she stated. “Unfortunately our hands are tied and there is nothing we can do at that point to help them avoid the penalty.”

Any tax payment received after the December 31st deadline is subject to a 7% penalty, in addition to a 2% interest charge for the first month it is late.

Payments that linger into February have an additional 2% interest charge tacked on, a rate that reoccurs each month the payment is late through September, when the total interest rate is capped at 18%.

If payment is not received by the following December 31st, the interest charges again begin to accumulate at 2% each month for the first nine months, up to a maximum total of 36%. If payment of real estate property taxes are not received within two years, the county has the legal right to advertise the delinquent tax bill and offer the real estate for public sale to secure payment for the delinquent payment.

The Collector’s Office does just that, collects the taxes. The amounts due are established by the County Assessor.

County Assessor Jim Ward stated the county’s assessed valuation typically increases from $750,000 to $1 million a year.

The office is currently in the process of mailing out personal property assessment forms, which must be completed by county residents and submitted to the Assessor’s Office by the end of March. These tax rolls record personal property such as vehicles, farm equipment and livestock, and business equipment.

In 2014 the assessed valuation for Scotland County increased approximately $2,250,000 to $67,781,450.

Taxpayers are levied $2.5695 per $100 of assessed valuation for county tax districts. Of that total 3 cents goes to the state. The county’s general fund receives 49.54 cents with another 66.68 cents going to the county road and bridge fund. The tax levy for the Scotland County Memorial Library is 18.83 cents with the Scotland County Health Department receiving 14.86 cents. The Scotland County Hospital District receives 49.54 cents while the Scotland County Nursing Home is supported by a 29.73 cent levy and the Scotland County Ambulance District receives 24.77 cents.

Municipal residents are taxed above this rate. In the City of Memphis the tax rate is $1.0428. Gorin residents pay 95.81 cents while Granger residents are taxed at a 67.91 cent rate. Arbela is taxed at a 50 cent levy while Rutledge has the lowest tax rate at 40 cents.

Commercial real estate is taxed an additional 91 cent Sur Tax. Residents of the Bear Creek Water Shed in the southeast corner of the county pay a special 40 cent tax levy. Owners of agricultural ground pay an additional 75 cent road rock levy.

In addition to city, county and state tax levies, local tax payers also pay school taxes. The rate for residents of the Scotland County R-I School District is $3.43. Residents of the Gorin R-III district will pay $4.3744 in the final year of the district’s existence. A few Scotland County residents belong to the Schuyler County School District, with a $4.20 tax levy with a similarly small number of county residents belonging to the Knox County School District with a tax levy of $3.8045.

According to Scotland County Clerk Batina Dodge, the bulk of the county is part of the SCR-I School District. More than $55.5 million of the county’s assessed valuation lies with the SCR-I district compared to $4.633 million in the Gorin R-III district  and $173,000 in Knox and $287,000 in Schuyler county districts.

Despite being a predominantly rural, agricultural community, the majority of the county’s assessed valuation ($19,343,450) comes from residential real estate not agricultural ($15,112,350) with commercial real estate constituting $5,839,820 of the valuation.

Real estate values makes up roughly two thirds of the property tax values, with a total of $40,295,620 compared to personal property tax values of $20,265,117.

State assessed taxes on utility companies accounts for nearly $7.2 million in assessed valuation for Scotland County with $5.6 million valuation on real estate owned by railroads and phone, gas, electricity and water suppliers and another $1.56 million in personal property valuation for the companies.

Of the county’s nearly $67.8 million in assessed valuation, $14.65 million is within the Memphis city limits with Gorin responsible for $780,711 (including roughly $390,000 in state assessed taxes for predominantly the railroad). Rutledge has similar numbers with a $620,219 total assessed valuation including $210,000 in state assessed  railroad valuation). Arbela’s assessed valuation is $185,045 while Granger has an assessed valuation of $231,775.