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Columbia’s tax collections lag behind last year’s

Property owners inside the town of Columbia, as a group, are lagging behind last year in paying their town taxes, Rhett White, town manager, reported Feb. 3 to the board of aldermen.

At that date $231,544 had been paid into the town treasury on the 2020 tax levy. The figure represents 75.01% of the $308,699 that was budgeted last June as part of the $792,078 General Fund revenues.

A year earlier the collection rate stood at 81.83% of the total budgeted, “so we’re lagging behind significantly,” White said.

General Fund revenues from July 1 to Feb. 3 were $405,409, or 51% of the annual amount anticipated, with 58.3% of the fiscal year having passed. Meanwhile, expenditures were $504,060, or 63% of the total budgeted.

The town’s Water & Sewer Fund revenues for the fiscal year stood at $377,416 on Feb. 3, or 51% of the amount anticipated for the 12-month budget that ends next June 30.

The “water and sewer income” line item was at $357,530, or 52% of the year’s total. White said the effect of the  transfer of Tyrrell Prison Work Farm inmates to other facilities before Christmas is showing up in lower sewer revenue. He estimates the monthly shortfall at about $17,000. If correct, the line item at June 30 will be about $85,000 below the amount anticipated, and that will call for pulling cash from reserves to pay $34,000 on the sewer bond principal plus $67,405 in sewer bond interest. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the lender, is requiring another $10,176 to be deposited in a savings account.

White promised to “hold costs as best we can,” but added that a truck replacement is needed immediately (extra cost) and that a portable toilet rental company, which dumped wastewater into Columbia’s sewer system for a fee for several years, has recently taken its business to Currituck County (lost revenue).

Total Water & Sewer Fund expenditures as of Feb. 3 were at $285,865, or 39% of the $727,384 budgeted last spring.