By RICK NORTON
Participant numbers in two Bradley County tax-assistance programs continue to grow, but those planning to sign up for the popular partial payment program should hurry; Friday is the deadline.
Local taxpayers interested in the unrelated tax relief program have until April 5.
“Enrollment for both the partial payment and tax relief programs has continued to increase over the last couple of weeks,” said Mike Smith, Bradley County trustee.
Of the partial payment initiative, now in its ninth year, Smith said word-of-mouth advertising continues to spread the message of its convenience to those who struggle with making the conventional once-a-year lump-sum payment in February.
“Bradley County citizens have realized the benefit of paying their property taxes over a period of time instead of paying the entire amount at once,” Smith told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “In so many ways, it just makes sense for those — in many cases our elderly residents — who have less spending power in their retirement.”
Partial payment is a method devised by Smith and his Trustee’s Office staff in 2010. Ironically, the idea came from local taxpayers — many of them elderly — who asked the trustee for options in paying their taxes.
“As we’ve said before, local citizens want to pay their taxes, but more and more — especially our senior citizens — are finding the need to break it into several equal payments, instead of the one lump sum,” Smith said.
Most partial payment enrollees choose the monthly option; however, other choices include quarterly or biannually, as well as possibly other alternatives provided they can be worked out between the taxpayer and the Trustee’s Office.
At last report, the partial payment program now has 1,648 participants. For 2019 taxes, Smith had guessed the office would hit 1,600; however, that number was eclipsed some time ago as more and more property owners decide paying property taxes by installment is a better method for their cash flow.
Payment options under partial payment include direct deposit, personal check, credit card, debit card and cash. Local residents are welcome to mail in their payments or they can drop by the Trustee’s Office and pay them in person.
When launching partial payment nine years ago, Bradley County became only the second county in Tennessee to initiate this type of program. Once its designed was completed, the partial payment option received the blessings of both the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and the Bradley County Commission.
Smith also spoke about the tax relief program, an initiative that now has 1,740 enrollees.
“More senior citizens are taking advantage of the state-funded tax-relief program,” Smith said. “Senior citizens who meet the state-mandated income limits receive a partial rebate on their property taxes.”
Smith said the tax relief initiative should be pursued by local residents who believe they qualify.
“I recommend anyone who thinks they may qualify to come by, or to contact, the Trustee’s Office,” Smith stressed. “My staff and I look forward to assisting Bradley County citizens.”
About the tax relief and tax freeze programs:
• Tax Relief Program: Application deadline is April 5. Since enrollment started for the newest tax season, tax relief has increased its participating numbers to 1,740.
Tax relief is a state of Tennessee plan that reimburses eligible homeowners for a portion, or all, of their paid property taxes. Tax relief is not an exemption; eligible residents will be responsible for paying them. But they do stand to be reimbursed, if they qualify.
• Tax Freeze Program: Application deadline is also April 5. Since enrollment started for the newest tax season, tax freeze listed 1,255 participants (however, that number is a few weeks old).
Tax freeze is a Bradley County plan that was approved by the Bradley County Commission in 2007. It will freeze the property taxes of applicants, age 65 and older by Dec. 31, 2018, at the current amount owed when the applicant is initially approved. Applicants must apply each year for the tax freeze program.
Information about any of the tax-assistance programs may be obtained by calling the Trustee’s Office at 423-728-7247. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
The Trustee’s Office operates in the old SouthEast Bank building at 1701 Keith St. It is located at the corner of Keith and 17th streets, and is now marked by exterior signage.
The facility offers a couple of major advantages over the old Courthouse location. One, it offers ample parking for visitors and staff; and two, the building offers increased floor space.
“Any Bradley County citizens who have an interest in any of these programs should drop by and see us,” Smith said. “Our capable staff will give you the time you need, and we’ll explain these programs in detail to help taxpayers better understand them.”
He added, “Anyone who missed the first enrollment in November and December for partial payment, as well as the first few weeks of the second enrollment, is encouraged to visit our office. We ask local citizens to remember the sign-up deadline for this second enrollment cycle is this coming Friday.”
That’s less than five days away.
Smith also mentioned the partnership over recent years between his office and the local community newspaper that has allowed the two to together to educate the public and to promote awareness of the various tax-assistance programs.
“The last few years the Cleveland Daily Banner has done a tremendous job getting the information on our programs out to the citizens, and I very much appreciate their help,” he said.