Board members of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce recently requested a waiver of penalties for past-due property taxes, but Cherokee County Treasurer Inez Peace said doing so wouldn’t be fair to other taxpayers.
Chamber President Steve Turner said he and Acting Executive Director Drew Haley met with Peace on July 28.
“[We] asked that they consider – that she consider – waiving the penalties so that we could move forward, and she indicated that she was unwilling to waive the penalties,” Turner told fellow board members this week.
The chamber owes $4,538 in unpaid property taxes from 2011, 2012, and 2013, according to county tax files. Overdue taxes are assessed a 1-1/2 percent per-month penalty, Peace said. With interest and other fees, the chamber now owes a total of $5,975.25.
“I just feel like we need to be fair to the Cherokee County people,” Peace said Thursday. “I just feel like treating everybody the same. If you start being partial to one, where are you going to cut it off? I feel like if I waived a penalty for [the chamber], I’d have to waive it for other people.”
Peace said notices are sent every year, along with “delinquent notices,” so someone at 123 E. Delaware – the chamber’s address – should have received word about the overdue property taxes.
Aside from the notices, several legal publications in Tahlequah newspapers, including the Daily Press, have previously listed the overdue property taxes owed by the chamber.
When the chamber pays its property taxes, funding is divvied out between the Cherokee County general fund, the county health fund, vo-tech funds, a multi-county library fund, and Tahlequah Public Schools funds.
Penalties and other late fees are placed into the treasurer’s “resale” fund.
“We use resale to pay for publications, we pay some of our postage, and we pay some of our salaries,” said Peace. “On [the treasurer’s] budget, we only budget for my salary and two employees. We have six employees besides myself, and four of them would be paid out of that [resale fund], basically.”
Without late penalties funding resale, Peace said a larger budget for the treasurer’s office would be necessary.
“We have the discretion, but we don’t really waive any late penalties,” said Peace. “I’m not trying to build our fund to pay our salaries, I just feel like treating everybody the same.”
Chamber board members have given the go-ahead to pay the past-due property taxes, but if they aren’t received by the treasurer’s office by Sept. 15, more fees and interest will be added, Peace said.
“The oldest they owe is from 2011, and if they don’t pay 2014’s, it’ll be sold,” said Peace. “But I understand they’ve made arrangements [to pay].”
Peace said the 1-1/2 percent, per-month penalty is established by the state.