SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County Tax Commissioner Linda McDaniel isn’t going to take it easy just because she didn’t draw opposition for a third term. She will continue to breathlessly seek perfection for herself and her 12-person staff.
“Customer service is number one,” McDaniel said. “The citizens who come in to pay taxes are paying our salaries and we owe them respect and the willingness to help them in any way we can as long as it’s legal. Customer service will always be on our list.”
McDaniel, whose office also collects taxes for the City of Guyton and City of Springfield, quickly achieved the goals of her first term. They were to allow for payments by credit card, update technology in her office and increase transparency for the public.
She estimated that about half of Effingham County taxpayers settle their debts almost as soon as they receive their annual notice in September. The due date is Nov. 15.
“I think most of the citizens know that this is their obligation,” she said. “Usually, most have paid their taxes by now. A lot pay at this time when they get their income tax refund.”
McDaniel tries to work with taxpayers who are in arrears.
“Most people, we have no problem with,” she said.
During her initial four-year term that started in 2009, McDaniel set up “payment agreements” to aid delinquent taxpayers. They established guidelines for periodic payments, including penalties and interest, following the Great Recession.
“What we found out, though, is that we were looking at the same people every year,” she said. “That’s why we don’t do ‘payment agreements’ anymore because the economy is good, automobiles are being purchased and you can look at the trends of what people are buying and moving into the community.”
McDaniel ceased making “payment arrangements” two years ago.
“We will give people so many months if there is a hardship but we won’t do ‘payment agreements,’” she explained.
Effingham County’s estimated property digest of $1,925,217,879, spurred by residential construction, has finally reached the pre-recession level. Taxable property includes land and generally anything that is erected or growing on it.
“We don’t set values and we don’t set millage,” McDaniel said. “That’s what people don’t understand.”
The Tax Assessor’s Office sets property values based on trends. The Effingham County Board of Commissioners sets the millage rate, which is based on its budget needs.
“We merge (the value and the milllage rate) together and create a bill,” McDaniel said.