Officials urge residents to pay property taxes on time - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Mancuso: Unpaid taxes could result in penalties, interest

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

If your property taxes went up this year, you're not alone.

Nothing says "Bah! Humbug!" like a hefty property tax bill in the mail and a lot of people are feeling the pain this year.

It's a reassessment year, when the tax assessor's office reevaluates the value of as many homes as possible.

While it's good if your home goes up in value, it can mean an increase in your property taxes.

Eric Stevens' tax bill went from just under $300 to more than $3,000.

"I guess the shock is, you're unprepared for something like that. You're used to a $280 or $290 tax bill on an annual basis and when Christmas time comes along, you sort of budget for that. And then when you get such a large increase it catches you off guard," Stevens said.

Luckily for Stevens, he has savings that he can use to pay his property taxes. Others may not be so well prepared for the increase.

But Calcasieu Parish Sheriff and tax collector Tony Mancuso said with penalties and interest, including the possibility of your home being put up at a tax sale, it's best to try to come up with a way to pay the taxes on time.

"If they can't and they have some type of hardship, they can come in, we have some documents they fill out. And we will take partial payments up until the time of the tax sale which is generally the middle of May, possibly the first of June. But again, even if it's a small amount that's owed, if it's not paid in full by that time, then they're delinquent and it goes to the sheriff's sale and they even incur more costs to get, to redeem the property back," Mancuso said.

The taxes are due by Dec. 31.

Mancuso admits the law doesn't allow them a lot of flexibility.

"Well, there is a process to redeem your property but again that takes a long process and you incur even more debt than just the property taxes. You've incurred all of the expenses that were incurred preparing for the tax sale, sending out the notices, advertising in the newspaper, and then of course, whatever penalties and interest," Mancuso said.

"I know this is a difficult time for people and it's rough on them. We're going to do everything we can within the law to assist them but I encourage them to try and do whatever it takes to pay it in full on Dec. 31 so they do not incur any more cost," Mancuso continued.

And again, if people think there's been a mistake or may qualify for a tax freeze because of age of income, they can check with the assessor's office.

In most cases, when the tax bill jumps dramatically, officials say it means the house was under assessed.

Nevertheless, state Sen. Ronnie Johns said he is having the Legislative staff research what other states do as far as some kind of annual cap on assessment increases.

He said he is exploring all options on addressing tax increases, though it's too early to say for sure if he will propose legislation.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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