While many Bartow residents may be scrambling to file income taxes before the April 15 deadline, the tax commissioner's office remains steadily busy all year.
"We collect the real and personal property tax and we collect the ad valorem tax on vehicles," Tax Commissioner VaLenda Bailey said.
Bailey's department operates on $1,268,800 with $670,000 of that going to the salaries of 20 regular employees, who take furloughs once a month. The 2012 budget is down slightly from 2011's $1,295,000.
Although tax collection is a main function of the office, vehicle tags also are issued through the department. Home sales on properties with delinquent payments are conducted through the tax commissioner's office as well as filing for homestead exemptions. The homestead exemption applies to anyone owning their property as of Jan. 1 of the new year and the deadline to apply is April 1.
"It's not something we like to do," Bailey said. "It's one of the evil necessities of the office."
When homeowners do not pay property taxes, after a certain point, those homes are sold on the steps of the courthouse. Before those properties can be sold, though, they must be advertised for four weeks. Advertising is factored into the budget at $2,000.
One of the largest pieces of the department's budget is designated for postage to mail out notices, bills and pamphlets.
"We mail out the tax bills and pre-bills for the automobile tax," Bailey said. "We also mail a pamphlet to all the taxpayers that buy property during the year. It's required by law."
Postage cost is designated at $40,000. Coinciding with this, printing and binding for these documents as well as the annual tax digest is set at $50,000.
"We complete the tax digest to be submitted to the state for approval before we can even start collecting," Bailey said.
A tax digest is a list of each taxpayer subject to property taxes and the assessment and amount of taxes due.
To ensure that the digest is properly created, professionals outside the office are hired to help compile the figures and $34,000 is added into the budget to pay for the extra assistance.
"There's a lot of work in getting ready for the tax sales, and we have the people that prepare those for us," Bailey said.
As tax codes and regulations change, education and training is required for the department's employees to remain up to speed with policies. Considering this, $800 is designated for education and training while $2,000 is set for travel to training locations.
"I'm required to have at least 20 hours a year as re-training and we have to go during the legislative session," Bailey said. "We have a meeting to stay on top of the legislators and what's happening with them, especially if it's anything affecting our offices. Then we go to classes just to stay on top of everything."
The remaining budget items relate to everyday operations of the office and those needs.
Items are set at:
* $4,000 for repair and maintenance on office equipment.
* $500 for telephone expenses.
* $2,000 for Internet expenses.
* $2,000 for general supplies.
* $15,000 for office supplies.