LUMBERTON — Any Robeson County property owners who have not paid their taxes and don’t want to see their names published in The Robesonian have Tuesday and Wednesday to settle that debt or work out an agreement with the Tax Office.
Commissioner David Edge is using money from his discretionary fund to pay for the tax notices to be published in the Sunday newspaper. He made the decision to use his discretionary money when his effort to get the notices published in The Robesonian failed in a 4 to 3 vote on June 11, with Commissioners Tom Taylor and Lance Herndon joining Edge, and Commissioners Berlester Campbell, Noah Woods, Raymond Cummings and Roger Oxendine opposing.
Tax Administrator Cindy Lowry said she would provide the delinquent taxpayers as of Thursday morning to The Robesonian, which needs them to print early so they can be inserted into Sunday’s newspaper. She said anyone who pays by midnight Wednesday will be omitted from the list.
The Tax Office, located on the first floor of the county courthouse, opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. Taxes also can be paid after hours online at the county’s website.
The county published the tax notices in the Robeson Journal, a weekly newspaper, on May 23. It claims a readership of 5,750 compared with The Robesonian’s 11,960. Additionally The Robeson Journal does not have an active website, while robesonian.com enjoys thousands of visitors each day.
The county has historically advertised the notices in The Robesonian, but in recent years has favored the Robeson Journal, an apparent response to aggressive reporting from the county’s only daily paper concerning a myriad issues, including the pay and benefits of the commissioners and their pursuit of Angel Exchange. The Robeson Journal published the notices in 2013, 2014 and 2015, before they were returned to The Robesonian for 2016 and 2017.
Edge believes the threat of a wider broadcast will pay for itself with additional collections.
“If you do not demand payment you will not get it and this county has not done a good job of it in the past,” he said. “There was not a policy of foreclosure up until the past four years and it is not strict enough. It needs to be tightened up to make people pay their taxes. We are losing millions every year due to this very reason.”
The cost to Edge is unknown because it will depend on how many parcels are listed.
The county paid the Robeson Journal $6,947.10 to publish 12,054 parcels. On June 18 there were 11,158 still unpaid.
Edge has $22,253 in his discretionary fund, and any unspent money carries over to the next fiscal year. Another $30,000 will be dumped into the fund on Sunday, when the 2018-19 fiscal year arrives.
Taxes became delinquent on Jan. 8, at which time a 2 percent penalty was assessed. An additional penalty of three-fourths of 1 percent is then assessed on the first day of each month the taxes remain unpaid.
There were 12,054 parcels identified as being late in the Robeson Journal on May 23, but The Robesonian has learned some were omitted, including relatives of two county commissioners. When the newspaper inquired how that happened, it was told that it has been a practice for years, but the mechanism for who made the order and who was complicit has not been made public.
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649 or [email protected]