Franklin County Collector Doug Trentmann says he is disappointed the 2019 tax bills have not been mailed yet, and as the clock is ticking he’s nervous the new computer system will not be online by next week.
Beginning as far back as 2017, the county commission began the process of updating the computer systems for county departments.
Cost constraints and testing led to fewer and fewer departments initializing a new system. The collector’s office is the only one that is currently being upgraded and at a cost exceeding $1 million.
On Thursday, Trentmann said they are still working out bugs in the system and if they are not fixed by Nov. 15, he will delay mailing the 2019 tax bills even longer.
“We’re not going to have the bills in people’s hands if we don’t have a way to collect the money,” Trentmann said. “The old system is not set up to accept the 2019 bills. We are getting to crunch time to get this switched over.”
The total charges this year for real estate, personal property, and railroad and utilities combined is $127,158,258 being mailed out in 70,473 bills for real estate and an additional 44,641 personal property tax bills.
Trentmann said the new 2019 tax bills were generated with the new system and sent to the printing company Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“We are already getting about 100 calls per day about when the bills will be mailed out,” Trentmann said. “The new system will be ready before they are mailed out. It has to be.”
He added the drop-dead date to get tax bills mailed out is Dec. 1, which would give residents less than 30 days to get them paid before the end of the year.
Since 2019 was a reassessment year and overall assessments went up countywide, tax bills will be higher.
Trentmann said each year the collector’s office has people pay their bills in person on the same day they receive them in the mail.
“We know what is coming and what we’re in for in the next few weeks,” he said. “But, we don’t know what to expect with the new system. It should make bill payments go smoother. We haven’t been able to put the new system under a load and can’t simulate the influx of payments.”
The new computer system will allow the collector’s staff to combine multiple tax charges for each resident into one transaction and place them in a virtual shopping cart just like an online shopping website.
The totals are then combined electronically and the resident is given the overall total to pay.
The new system also will allow staff to search residents by name and find any back taxes they may owe.
“Paying your bill in person should be no different than it used to be, just a bit faster on our end,” Trentmann said. “However, we can’t speed up how long it takes someone to write a check or ask questions.”
The average yearly tax collection rate for Franklin County is about 95 percent.
The breakdown is between 95 or 96 percent in real estate collections and between 91 and 92 percent for personal property taxes.
In 2018, the collector’s office received about 60,000 of the county residents’ tax payments by mail, which was about 52 percent of the overall 114,807 bills last year.
Trentmann said on the busiest day of tax collection last year, 1,232 bills were paid in person at the collector’s office and 4,000 came in by mail, totaling $3 million. On the last day of collections in 2018, 700 bills were paid in person.
The total tax charges last year was $120,159,705.