Clinton County property tax payments are coming in “not super quickly,” says county treasurer Dustin Johnson.
Last month, around $400,000 trickled in. The county is sitting with a $1.3 million shortfall, twice what would be considered typical at the start of July.
The county’s fund balances are healthy enough to continue operations as normal, Johnson said, but he warned some municipalities and school districts without large balances are feeling the pinch.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic impact that came with it, has contributed to the shortfall.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency proclamation March 20 temporarily waived all penalties and interest for late property tax payments. The usual deadline to pay first-half property taxes in Iowa is March 31.
Reynolds has since extended that proclamation multiple times. As of Monday, it is set to expire July 31. Anyone who has not paid their property taxes by then will be subject to penalties, including added interest.
At the beginning of May, the county’s shortfall was $3.2 million.
“It’s an issue across the state,” Johnson said. “It’s a little bit worse in metro areas; typically, property owners in urban areas are slower to pay than rural areas. The county treasures across the state, those in rural counties, aren’t seeing much of an issue.”
In a regular year, the county would have held a tax sale in June for investors to bid for and buy off the remaining property tax debt. A tax lien is then placed on the property, and if the tax sale is not redeemed within the time specified by Iowa law, the tax sale certificate holder can obtain a tax deed on the property.
This year, due to COVID-19 and Reynolds’ proclamation — which suspended added interest on property tax sale redemptions — the sales did not occur.
Johnson said most of the $1.3 million shortfall comes from the city of Clinton.
“Reynolds has continued to move (the proclamation) back, which I understand the reasoning for,” Johnson said. A lot of people who can pay have paid. I think there’s a minority out there choosing to not pay because they can, and I think there’s a majority of people who aren’t paying because they don’t think they can afford it.”
At the end of this week Johnson’s office will send out reminders in the mail to all people who have either not paid this year, or have a payment due from last year.
“Hopefully, that will trigger people to make their payments. They’ll start paying interest Aug. 3.”
If Gov. Reyonlds does not extend her proclamation past July 31, all unpaid property taxes will be considered delinquent.