Because of the impact COVID-19 has had on the local economy, Pulaski County is giving citizens and businesses who need it a three-month grace period of sorts for paying their first half real estate taxes due on June 5.
Monday night the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that establishes a penalty and interest rate of zero percent for real estate taxes not paid by June 5.
Taxpayers will have until September 5 to pay their taxes without penalty.
However, come September 6, late-payers face the usual 10 percent penalty plus interest for missing the deadline.
“We live in extraordinary times,” stated County Administrator Jonathan Sweet in explaining why the Board of Supervisors had put forth the idea of helping taxpayers who had been hit hard by COVID-19.
“We don’t yet know the full impact – particularly the financial impact – COVID-19 has had on our local economy,” Sweet said.
He recalled that last year, Pulaski County ranked first in the state in economic development and job creation efforts and enjoyed its lowest unemployment rate in some 40 years.
However, due to COVID-19, things have turned sour on the economic front.
Sweet said on March 14, only seven citizens filed unemployment claims in the county. That number increased March 21 to 80. On March 28, the number filing unemployment claims climbed to 496, and on April 4 the figure was 478.
“Those numbers put things in perspective,” Sweet noted.
In light of this, Sweet said the supervisors began considering ways they could support local businesses – large and small – as well as individual citizens and do so in a “very balanced, very measured way so as to not further jeopardize Pulaski County’s projected revenue collections and cash flow.”
Sweet said some localities had considered simply moving due dates to give taxpayers more time to pay. However, he said that actually would compound the challenge counties will have in generating tax revenue.
He said the approach taken by Pulaski County’s Supervisors in not changing the date allows all escrow accounts to pay on June 5 as scheduled. It also allows citizens who want to pay on the due date to do so.
Noting that some citizens and businesses now may not be in the financial position they were three months ago and may not be able to pay their real estate taxes that are due June 5.
“It is not the board’s intent to take advantage of those taxpayers during this period of unprecedented times by enjoying penalties and interest as a result of the impact of COVID-19’s effects,” Sweet said.
Sweet stressed the board’s action does not remove penalties and interest from any other previous taxes owed.
Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie thanked Sweet, County Treasurer Melinda Worrell and County Attorney Tim Kirtner for their efforts on the ordinance and the relief it will give citizens of the county.
“Particularly at this time when a lot of folks are having trouble coming up with cash,” Guthrie said. “Hopefully by September we’re going to be through this period and people will be more able to pay and won’t be subject to any penalty for not paying right now because of the fact it is the government that has been telling us there are certain actions we can take and certain we can’t, and certain businesses are shut down during this time and that is beyond their control.”
“We want to make sure they are not penalized for that,” Guthrie said.
On a related note, Sweet announced that most of Randolph Park will be re-opened as of today (May 1). See related story inside Friday’s issue of The Patriot.
Sweet noted 1.2 million people reside in Virginia west of Bath County, and in that area only 351 cases of COVID-19 have been reported with only 67 hospitalizations.
Sweet said local governments in the New River Valley are working together to develop models for re-opening, and when those are ready, they will be introduced in a series of virtual town hall meetings.
Before closing the meeting, Guthrie noted that May’s regular meeting of the board will occur on May 18 due to the Memorial Day holiday.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot