By Rich Place
Cited as an effort to provide shared services while also giving school district taxpayers a more personable way to pay their taxes, the SGI Central School District and Town of Concord have approved on a four-year agreement to allow the town to collect school taxes.
The Concord Town Board approved the agreement during its regular meeting last Thursday.
The potential solution for the school district — which multiple times in recent years has changed how residents can pay their taxes — will give taxpayers the option to again pay in person instead of relying on a drop box, for example.
“I think that in-person collection option is invaluable,” said school business administrator Maureen Lee. “The (school) board was very vocal about wanting that and needing that.”
Now, the well known faces of town clerk Darlene Schweikert and deputy town clerk Stephanie Bacon can assist taxpayers and answer questions as needed.
“We are lucky here to have a town clerk and a deputy town clerk who are very good at handling the public and we feel we can successfully do this and help out both organizations,” said Supervisor Clyde Drake.
“At the very least it’s giving our taxpayers a single place to call, to ask questions, to get the information that they need,” added Lee.
The agreement begins Sept. 1 and the town will receive $17,000 to collect the 2018-19 school taxes, Drake said during the town board meeting. It’s a four-year agreement that increases 2.5 percent each year.
Drake said the agreement states either party can terminate the agreement if it does not work out as intended, although the general consensus among both town and school officials is that this new system will work as anticipated.
“It’s more efficient and effective and really helps with our obligation to share services with our colleagues and friends,” said SGI Superintendent Kimberly Moritz. “Just like our shared fuel agreement we have now with the village, this helps us to be more streamlined for taxpayers.”
Schweikert noted the new system will allow school district taxpayers to also pay online, an option Lee said was not previously available.
Schweikert said the town will now handle approximately 7,700 tax bills that stretch beyond the town of Concord and include about 450 from Cattaraugus County. Although that’s more than the roughly 4,200 the town currently handles, it’s a workload that can be handled, she said.
“Tax collection is not something that just anybody can just walk in and do,” added Lee. “You have to know the regulations regarding escrow and second party notification and the proper collection of taxes and the penalty assessments. We really piggybacked onto the expertise that Darlene and Stephanie have on that.”
Additional information concerning specifics about how taxpayers will be able to pay their school taxes under the new agreement, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, will be in the district’s newsletter, on its website and through other information provided with tax bills.
“We are really trying to provide a continual service that doesn’t change every year. It’s a lot of work to go through these changes,” Lee said. “In discussions we really feel that this is a sustainable option for everyone.”