Hollingsworth: Tax bills coming Tuesday

Beginning Tuesday November 1, Historic City News readers who own property in St. Augustine and St. Johns County can expect to find their tax bills in the mailbox as the 2011 tax season begins.

Included will be bills for real estate, tangible personal property, railroad, and non ad-valorem assessments.

Total taxes to be collected are $342,183,959.00. This is a decrease of $7,749,804.36 compared to the 2010 tax roll of $379,612,844.53.

Although all tax bills become due Nov. 1, 2011, they are payable through March 31, 2012, without incurring a penalty.

Property owners have the opportunity to pay their tax bills over the next several months, but the greatest savings can be realized by those who opt to pay their bills in November when they can get a 4 percent discount. The amount of the discount decreases by 1 percent every month until March 2012 when bills must be paid and no discount is applied, per Florida Statute 197.

There are various methods of payment available to St. Johns County property owners. The most popular method is the U.S. mail. There is also an online payment option to property owners with Internet service and a credit card. Access the St. Johns County Tax Collector website at www.sjctax.us and follow the prompts for payment. Please note that a convenience fee set by the credit card companies is associated with this service; however, the Tax Collector’s office does not retain any portion of this fee.

Anyone unable to pay their homestead property taxes should contact the St. Johns County Tax Collector as early as possible to determine eligibility for the Homestead Tax Deferral per Chapter 197.253, Florida Statutes.

Florida Statute Chapter 197 allows taxpayers to prepay their taxes via an installment payment plan for each tax notice with taxes estimated to be more than $100.00. Participants enrolled in the 2011 installment plan will receive their third quarterly installment tax bill in December. This option is no longer available for the 2011 taxes unless already enrolled in the installment plan. Application for the 2012 tax year must be made with the Tax Collector’s office prior to May 1, 2012, with the first payment due no later than June 30, 2012.

In addition to the mailings sent to property owners, 39,367 payment notices were sent to mortgage companies with Escrow Accounts totaling $121,558,631.32. If you have an escrow account, you should be receiving an “information only” notice detailing your tax status and stating, “THIS IS NOT A BILL-DO NOT PAY- YOUR BILL HAS BEEN FORWARDED TO YOUR ESCROW AGENT.”

“For the past 22 years, your Tax Collector’s office has maintained a 99.3 percent or greater collection rate,” said St. Johns County Tax Collector Dennis W. Hollingsworth, CFC. “Ultimately, this assists all local taxing authorities to finance services for the citizens’ needs.”

“Please note that the Tax Collector’s office is responsible for collecting, investing and distributing tax revenue,” Hollingsworth continued. “Any questions regarding homestead exemptions and assessment disputes should be addressed to the Property Appraiser. Any questions regarding the individual taxing authorities’ millage rates listed on your bill should be addressed to those individual authorities.”

In mid-October, Hollingsworth distributed $4,238,420.88 to the local government and taxing authorities, from unused earned revenue collected during FY2010-2011.

This $4.2 million represents unused revenue the Tax Collector’s office earned for the taxpayers of St. Johns County that was not expended or used in the operation of the local tax, tag and driver license offices. The Tax Collector’s office is self-sustaining, operating from monies regulated by Florida Statutes on commissions from the collection of taxes and fees for the mandated State functions of several agencies. These agencies include: the Department of Revenue; the Division of Motor Vehicles; and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The additional revenue also was generated as interest earned from investments, as well as revenue from additional tag and title business the Tax Collector seeks through acquisition of fleet accounts such as UPS and Ring Power.

The unused revenue Hollingsworth has collected over the past year is a result of the tax, tag and driver license offices operating with frugality and efficiency. Hollingsworth said he is honored to serve the taxpayers of St. Johns County by managing their Tax Collector’s office in a fiscally responsible manner. “Although property tax collection revenue is down, the parcel count in St. Johns County actually has increased,” he said.

The total amount distributed includes monies that are generated by the office and received throughout the year from other State agencies, such as mobile home revenues received from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and revenues from Retained Vessel Fees which are distributed weekly by the Tax Collector’s office.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding the operation of the St. Johns County Tax Collector’s office, please do not hesitate to contact Hollingsworth at taxcollector@sjctax.us.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph

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