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County, town tax notices go out

By Allen Turner, The News Reporter

All Columbus County and most municipal property owners received tax bills for 2018 in the mail last week, and although the tax rate remained unchanged, the new billings represented a small increase over the prior year, according to Tax Administrator Needom Hughes.

County billings for 2018 totaled $33.041 million, compared to $32.323 million last year. Most of that, $26.065 million, is for taxes on land, buildings and personal property. The other $4.96 million is for various district taxes (such as fire districts, rescue districts, the Whiteville Downtown District and the Riegelwood Sanitation District) and solid waste user fees.

Total property assessments on which tax billings are based increased by $718,407 in the county between 2018 and 2017. Total property values in Columbus County for 2018 are $3.237 billion.

Breakdowns on tax billings for individual municipalities were not available.

The county, Whiteville and Chadbourn give a 2 percent discount on payments received before the end of August, and Hughes said that’s why Columbus County bills go out as early as they do. Most North Carolina counties do not issue tax bills until September.

Hughes said the 2 percent discount plays a big role in collection rates. In previous years, about 70 percent of tax payments historically have been received during the early discount period in August.

Columbus County’s base tax rate is 80.5 cents per $100 of property evaluation. Additional fees are billed depending on where one’s property is situated. Fire district fees range from 6 cents to 12 cents per $100, rescue district fees are 2 cents for both Columbus County and Whiteville Rescue, there’s a 12 cents fee for the Whiteville Downtown District, and a 30 cents fee for the Riegelwood Sanitation District.

Solid waste user fees, which pay for garbage collection and landfill charges, are a flat $203 annually in unincorporated areas of the county and in the towns of Boardman and Sandyfield. The solid waste fee for all other municipalities is $116 annually for landfill charges, but the newest fees for municipalities were not available Monday. Collection fees in those other towns are included in monthly billings by the towns.

The Columbus County Tax Office handles collection for six municipalities, as well as the county, while four towns do their own tax collection. Municipal tax rates for 2018 were not available Monday, but in 2017 they ranged from a low of 20 cents per $100 (Cerro Gordo and Lake Waccamaw) to a high of 67 cents per $100 in Tabor City. Other town tax rates are 35 cents in Sandyfield, 45 cents in Brunswick, 50 cents in Boardman, 53 cents in Whiteville, 60 cents in Bolton, 62 cents in Chadbourn and 65 cents in Fair Bluff.

County and municipal tax payments for Whiteville, Fair Bluff, Sandyfield, Boardman, Brunswick and Cerro Gordo are accepted in person at the county tax office, via mail, online or by telephone with a credit card. A 2.45 percent convenience fee is added to any credit card payments made online or by phone. Payments can be made by calling 1-888-686-3335 or online by clicking on the appropriate link at http://columbusco.org/Departments/Tax-Office. 

Chadbourn taxpayers can pay their town taxes either online by clicking the appropriate link on the town’s website at http://www.townofchadbourn.com/ or by calling 1-855-598-5609. Chadbourn customers paying online or by telephone via credit card will pay a 3 percent convenience fee; Chadbourn taxpayers will also be able to make in-office payments by credit card, but the convenience fee for those transactions has yet to be set by the town council.

Online payments are not offered by Tabor City, but town taxes there can be paid by telephone using a credit card by calling 653-358. A 3 percent convenience fee also will be assessed for those paying by credit card.

Lake Waccamaw does not accept online, telephone payments or credit card payment for taxes.

In Bolton, municipal taxpayers may pay by telephone by calling 655-8945 and, unlike in other towns and the county, no convenience fee is charged by Bolton for credit card payments. Online payments are not available for Bolton town taxes.

Municipal tax payments for Whiteville, Fair Bluff, Sandyfield, Boardman, Brunswick and Cerro Gordo cannot be made through town offices and must instead be processed by the county tax office.

Stuart Rogers