BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead property owners will have another option when it comes to paying their property taxes.
Councillors unanimously passed Bylaw 3-2019 (Tax Installment Payment Plan) during their Dec. 3 meeting to allow residents to pay their property tax bill in installments.
They first discussed the topic during an in-camera meeting in October. It was at this meeting that they instructed the finance department to draft a potential tax-installment bylaw.
Director of finance and administration Tamara Molzahn said the ability for municipalities to allow residents to pay their taxes in installments comes from the Municipal Government Act.
"All our neighbouring municipalities already (have a) TIPP and it is quite common," she said.
In the county's 2020 budget survey they asked respondents if they would take advantage of TIPP and 52 per cent responded yes.
Molzahn said although technically they didn't have a TIPP, ratepayers could still pay their taxes in installments.
"But we asked them to pay ahead," she said but noted it was up to the ratepayer to keep track of the payment schedule and manage what was left on their account.
Under the bylaw, ratepayers can enrol at any point in the year and the payment is prorated based on the number of monthly payments remaining. Payments would be by direct deposit.
Molzahn used the example of a ratepayer who has an annual tax levy of $3,000 and entered into a TIPP agreement in April.
"It would mean they would pay nine monthly payments of $333.33," she said. "In January, they would likely remain on the plan but with a reduced monthly payment to cover the following year's taxes in 12 equal installments of $250."
Molzahn also gave the example of someone who hadn't paid their annual tax levy of $2,400. The county sends out tax notices in April and payment is due by Aug. 31.
On Sept. 1 penalties are applied and an overdue notice is sent. Staff would then suggest the resident sign up for the TIPP.
"By joining the program in September only four payments are required until the end of the year," she said, adding with the penalty the monthly payments would be roughly $650. "In January they would likely remain on the plan but have significantly reduced monthly payments," she said.
Coun. Walter Preugschas asked what happened if a person missed payments.
Under the bylaw, two missed payments are allowed noting they would be also be charged an NSF (not sufficient fund) fee. They would also not be allowed to rejoin the TIPP program.
Molzahn noted residents in tax arrears situations would be encouraged to join the program.
The benefit is that when they are part of the TIPP they would not incur a penalty on the current year's taxes, as long as they kept the payments up, while they work to clear their old tax bill.
However, Molzahn pointed out that penalties will continue to accumulate on the taxes that are in arrears. According to the MGA residents have three years to get their accounts up to date. If they fail to do so their property is put up for public auction and sold to recoup what's owed.
"That is not what we want to happen," interjected County manager Debbie Oyarzun, adding the TIPP gives residents who have fallen behind in their taxes a better opportunity to catch up.