POUND — A move to again offer taxpayers a conditional discount off their real estate tax bill couldn't even get to a vote, failing for lack of a second at Town Council's May 14 meeting.
Councilman Clifton Cauthorne said the same incentive offered last year worked, with many taking advantage of a 2.5 percent discount if they paid their total annual tax bill in full rather than splitting that payment into two. At the time, Pound had just switched to twice-annual billing and expected a one-time windfall that comes with a change in the process.
Councilman Phil Cantrell Jr., who was not on council when it approved the discount, said he had recently asked whether that decision was perpetual or needed to be made year to year. He was told the action applied to that one year only.
Mayor and interim Town Manager George Dean urged council to remember the incentive comes at a cost to the town.
Councilman Glenn Cantrell agreed, noting that the incentive is taking cash out of town coffers that could be used for something else. Cantrell said he had paid his taxes in full last year in the first billing cycle because the town needed the money but he did not take the discount.
Dean acknowledged he had paid in full as well and Cauthorne said he had taken full advantage of the discount and was proud of it.
Cantrell agreed the discount was a good incentive but also argued that it was costly. Town Clerk/Treasurer Jeremy Mullins said the town is giving up about $3,500 in revenue.
Vice Mayor Jay Graham wanted to know if the discount cost the town more than the interest on its line of credit. Mullins estimated it would be about the same.
Phil Cantrell wanted to know if the town saw an increase in the actual number of people who paid their taxes. Mullins said he didn't know because that was before he was hired.
Glenn Cantrell said the discount helped the town in the first part of the year but hurt toward the end of year when it wasn't receiving that revenue.
Referring to his brother's observation, Phil Cantrell said it's "Catch 22, darned if you do, darned if you don't."
But Councilman Danny Stanley noted the town already has sent out first-half tax tickets and Mullins added that payments already had started to come in. No discount was mentioned on the notice, which bills only for the amount due during the first half of the year.
Stanley was concerned about the time it would cost staff now to adjust to a change after tickets already had gone out.
"What about those who've already paid?" Graham asked.
Cauthorne suggested the town might just ask folks when they come to the window at town hall to pay.
After discussion, the mayor asked for a second to Cauthorne's motion to offer the discount but was met with silence.
The only verbal support for the discount came during public comment from former town council member Terry Short. When council talks about the discount costing the town, Short said members need to consider who the town of Pound is — taxpayers. "You are not considering who is paying for this," Short said.
The town's tax statement this year makes no mention of the fact that the bill is for only half of what a taxpayer owes, he also said. The same thing happened last year and the town will face the same confusion, he said.
"Think about the taxpayers," Short said. "The town wouldn't be here without them."
He also challenged council on the one-time windfall, noting that council originally planned to put about $30,000 of the $70,000 anticipated into an interest-bearing account. Short asserted that was never done and the money was spent. "I want to know where it went," Short said.
The former councilman also questioned the process by which council changed a $7 fee last fall, including its purpose and accountability.