By Justin Bates
Property owners in Sebastian County are among the first in the state who can pay their personal property taxes online, as well as receive electronic statements and receipts, according to Sebastian County Treasurer-Collector Judith Miller.
Miller said the county’s new online system is part of a tax collector software package the county purchased in January for $46,000 from Little Rock-based TaxPro to coincide with new state laws that mandate bookkeeping. Pulaski and Saline counties use the same software package.
Miller said the change in the state law to allow counties to send out electronic statements will allow property owners to get information in a timely manner.
“This is a big deal. We’ve always allowed them to pay online, but the big thing with this is to receive statements online. It will save time and will save the county money,” Miller said. “The law went into effect in regular session last year and we are taking advantage of it. We are trying to go green and save the taxpayers some money.”
Bentley Hovis, chief deputy at the Pulaski County Treasurer-Collector’s Office, viewed the move as a long-term savings venture for Pulaski County.
“We just got started with ours and as far as what we did, we have about 64,000 emails in our records of people who volunteered their email addresses to us. We sent it out the last week in February and broadcast that the tax books were open,” Hovis said. “Of those, 1,100 went ahead and paid their taxes before they even got their bill.”
Hovis said the county sends out more than 300,000 tax bills annually, which he estimates costs about a dollar per statement.
“If we can get 40,000 to 50,000 to opt in, that would save an estimated $50,000 annually. That is a big deal,” Hovis said. “A new sheriff’s deputy starts out at $26,000 annually, so, for example, the county could probably hire two sheriff’s deputies if they wanted. For us here in Pulaski County, it will be a huge savings material down the road. For counties our size, it could be a great savings. We are real excited about it.”
According to Miller, her office spends 56 cents for each statement mailed to the county’s property owners. The cost includes envelopes, postage and printing.
Miller said about 1,600 property owners have opted in, which she said is a savings to the county.
Though the number appears small, Miller said the program is in its infant stages and anticipates the number to grow much larger, leading to more savings for the county. Miller said the collector’s office has 57,884 real estate owners and 55,813 personal property owners on the books, many of whom are duplicate owners. She said she’d like to see at least 32,000 property owners opt-in for the service, which would save the county an estimated $17,920.
County Judge David Hudson said the cost-saving measure is a good move for the county.
“I think it’s a good move that saves us some money,” Hudson said. “It goes hand-in-hand with the implementation of technology in the county.”
Another advantage of the new system is the ability to pay taxes early, instead of waiting to receive a paper statement. “You could get a jump on it and pay your taxes,” Miller said. “It’s convenient and would save the county money.”
The tax books officially opened March 1. The deadline to pay property taxes is Oct. 15.