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Most Lee countians paid property taxes on time

By CJ HADDAD - | Apr 7, 2021

cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

The deadline to file property taxes in Lee County passed this Wednesday, and after a pandemic year that saw an increase of delinquent property, Lee County Tax Collector Noelle Branning said things are starting to get back to normal.

From 2018 to 2019, the percentage of real estate and business property tax collected dropped. For the 2020 tax year, the percentage of property taxes collected has once again climbed to a usual number.

“The Lee County Tax Collector is committed to providing exceptional tax collector services through financial transparency and innovation with a valued, professional workforce,” Branning said. “Looking at overall collections for the past few years, the global pandemic caused a slight increase in delinquent real property and tangible personal property accounts for the 2019 tax year. With 2020 taxes due as of March 31, 2021, I am pleased that our collections are normalizing.”

From 2018 to 2019, the percentage of real estate property taxes collected fell from 96.23% to 95.51% and for 2020, stand at 96.59%. When it comes to businesses, 97.91% of property tax was collected in 2018 as compared to 96.94% in 2019. For 2020, 97.24% of business property tax had been received.

In terms of actual dollar amounts, both real estate and business property tax totals have increased each year since 2017. In 2020, a total of $1,516,270,593 was collected in real estate property tax and $71,713,262 in business property tax.

In 2017, the total dollar amount of real estate property taxes equaled $1,319,976,963 and business property tax totaled $57,647,490.

Branning’s office collects property taxes on behalf of taxing authorities. The property appraiser determines an individual or businesses’ property valuation.

Dollars collected are then distributed back to the taxing authorizes (county, municipalities, law enforcement, parks department, etc.) cover their operating budget.

Tax notices are mailed on or before Nov. 1 of each year and taxpayers are offered discounts if paid early.

“We see our highest volume of payment in November and December where people take advantage of the discounts,” Branning said.

Branning said a “boom” in the real estate market in the area throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prevented an increase in delinquency. She stated she would be interested to see how next year shapes up when it comes to tangible property taxes (businesses) and how many business owners could not withstand the economic perils of the pandemic.

“We are seeing so many people move to Lee County,” Branning said. “We are at or exceeding pro-COVID numbers when it comes to customers visiting our offices.”

Those who did not pay their property taxes before deadline now enter delinquency and have until May 17 to do so while incurring fees.

On May 18, the office will hold a tax certificate sale where bidders from all over the state and country will bid on tax certificates at the lowest interest rate.

“This ensures the taxpayers are least impacted and gives the (property owner) time to pay their taxes,” Branning said.

This does not mean a property or home is up for sale. An individual will buy the certificate at the lowest interest rate bid and earn money based on that interest rate until the taxpayer redeems the certificate (pays it).

“People look at it as an investment opportunity,” Branning said. “By law we have to award the certificate to the lowest interest rate that’s bid.”

An individual must hold a tax certificate for two years before being able to apply for a tax deed (as well as paying off all other outstanding certificates), which is a separate process through the Lee Clerk where a certificate holder could then pursue owning the property (as well as other bidders at auction).

A property owner can also pay off their tax certificate at any time, including the accrued interest amount.

“Tax certificate sales are a really important function because at that point, the taxes for the year will have been paid so that we can fully fund all of the taxing authority budgets.”

For more information on the Lee County Tax Collector and property taxes, visit www.leetc.com.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj