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Online tax payment popular, says treasurer

In the four years since St. Croix County began taking real estate payments online, the amount paid that way has escalated, reports Treasurer Cheryl Slind.

"It amazes me the number of people who will pay their taxes by credit card," said Slind. She said she hasn't yet noticed a decrease in counter traffic at her office during tax time, but expects that will come.

Slind said the dollar amount paid electronically in 2005 was a 32 percent increase over 2004 and the amount paid electronically in 2006 was an 80 percent increase over 2005.

The real estate taxes paid over the Internet by credit card or automatic checking account debit totaled $173,870 in 2004, $231,228 in 2005, and $416,545 in 2006.

While Same Day Pay, the company that processes the online payments, charges the county nothing, it does charge a 2.35 percent fee to the credit card holder. It also charges a $3 per transaction fee for ACH (Automatic Clearing House) payments.

Slind said 60 percent of those paying online use credit cards and 40 percent use ACH debit.

Conversion fees

She also reported that in 2006 her office sent out bills totaling $212,122 -- the largest amount in any year so far -- for agriculture conversion penalties.

This procedure charges a fee for property assessed as agricultural use in the prior year and changed to another use in the current year. The local municipality and the county split the fees.

The county's share of ag use penalties collected was $46,046 in 2004 and $92,406 in 2005.

So far the county has received $77,172 in 2006 ag use penalties but has placed another $57,778 on the tax rolls for collection. Since the county will keep half that amount, Slind said its revenue from this fee will be $106,061.

She also reported that the amount of delinquent real estate taxes at the end of 2006 was a little higher than at the end of 2005.

The amount owed at the end of 2005 was $1.9 million while the amount owed Dec. 31, 2006 was almost $2.1 million.

Of that $2.1 million, $413,425 was owed by Croixland Properties, owner of the old dog track in Hudson. The oldest of that debt -- $156,500 -- was paid Jan. 12, said Slind.

She also reported that the county tax rolls totaled $127 million for 2006 -- up from $119 million for 2005.

Of the 2006 total, 51.4 percent goes to the school districts, 20.4 percent to the municipalities, 19.2 percent to the county, 6.8 percent to technical colleges and 1.2 percent to the state.