Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 23 June 2009 09:28
“We have had this escrow program for many years, but recently the county purchased software that automates everything,” said Jeannine Bateman, Marion County treasurer. Patty Decker /Free Press
Homeowners who either have paid off their house or are electing not to pay taxes with a mortgage could benefit from an escrow program offered by the Marion County Treasurer’s office.
The program is set up so that property taxes due twice a year can be paid into an account on a monthly basis. When the bill is due, the money is moved from the escrow account to the treasurer’s office, where it is processed. The escrow starts over for the next six months.
“We have had this escrow program for many years, but recently the county purchased software that automates everything,” said Jeannine Bateman, treasurer.
“A lot of people know about the escrow program,” she said, “because we sent out tax information not long after it was installed.”
Property taxes are due Dec. 20 and May 10, but any homeowner can jump in at any point, she said.
Using a $50,000 home as an example, Bateman estimated property taxes of $1,650.50 or $138 a month.
“I have had people come in and want to start an account in February, which means four months are left to pay six months’ worth of taxes,” she said.
Bateman said she will work with anyone to find the best option available for them.
If the homeowner is a county employee, payments can be made through a tax-withholding account; for the general public, the tax can be paid through an automatic withdrawal.
Bateman said some people like coupons, others prefer the choice of when to withdraw funds for the escrow account.
“We can set the program up for a year,” she said. “If it suits a person’s schedule, we can also make payments due between the first day of the month to the 10th day.”
Currently, she said about 130 residents and businesses use the escrow account.
The program is a good alternative to paying a lump sum every six-months.
“I have been working on getting this perfected for a long time,” Bateman said. “In this day and age, not many people have large sums of money in the bank.”
It’s been her experience, after 15 years as county treasurer, that a lot of people live from paycheck to paycheck. Years ago, she said, people could pay a full or half payment on property taxes, but few can now.
Bateman encouraged homeowners or those with a business to stop by or call about their escrow options.
Vehicle tax estimator
Another public service offered by Marion County, but not widely known, is the vehicle tax estimator.
To access this service, Bateman said, taxpayers need to go to the county Web site (marioncoks.net), then click on the treasurer’s page along the left column and look for “vehicle tax tag estimator.”
One of the benefits of this program is that when someone buys a car, pickup or other vehicle, there are no surprises.
Many people look at cars, she said, whether it’s a Ford, Buick, Chrysler, Lincoln or any of the many other models available.
“What some people don’t realize is that taxes are not (solely) based on cost, but on class, weight and purchase price,” Bateman said.
Using the estimator, a person can know immediately what the estimated property tax will be on a vehicle.
In order to keep current with the new models, the program was introduced to commissioners, who agreed to pay a $250 fee to keep the listings updated monthly.
Search property valuations
The county also has a tax-search program allowing taxpayers to check on the valuation of properties.
Go to the county Web site, then enter name of property under street address, description of houses on real estate tax unit, school district, assessed value of book and transfer.
Another program involves driver’s license and renewal information.
Bateman isn’t sure why Marion County has fewer delinquent property-tax payments, but it could be because of the escrow program.
For more information on any of the programs available through the county treasurer’s office, call 382-2180 or stop by the Marion County Courthouse.