Antrim Township tax collector moves office

PAT FRIDGEN
Sue Myers has moved the Antrim Township tax office to South Carlisle Street. She and her employees handle 6,500 billing statements for property taxes and 10,000 statements for per capita taxes.

Just because the door is locked at the humble office on West Baltimore Street, Antrim Township residents should not think they can avoid paying their real estate and $15 per capita taxes. With a new tax collector, the new year also brought a new site for operations.

Sue Myers, elected in November, decided to move the tax office to 7 S. Carlisle St. She opened in January and brought along her predecessor, Peggy Dickson. The two switched places, Myers having worked for Dickson for a year and a half, and Dickson having served as tax collector for eight years. Now Dickson is the employee.

Myers steps into the role after 32 years with the Franklin County controller's office. She retired in 2006 and stayed involved in financial matters by assisting with Antrim taxes. After two terms, Dickson decided to step down from the more than fulltime job, and Myers offered to step up, knowing the work load ahead of her. She was unchallenged at the polls.

She has started the paperwork for the county property tax bills going out in February, this year with her name on them. Dickson is required to finish collecting the 2009 taxes because her name is on those statements. The late payment for school district taxes closes in April and per capita taxes in May. After that, delinquent taxes are turned over to the Franklin County Tax Claim Bureau. Both noted sometimes that is the most viable option for strapped taxpayers, because the bureau allows installment payments, but the local office is obligated to collect the total amount at once.

Myers furnished the new office with custom-made cabinets, at her own expense, with the drawers just the right size to hold the bills. She has a computer in the front room and Dickson works in the back. Their headquarters is in the building that housed Rep. Todd Rock's office before he moved across the street. They laugh that they can wave at his staff.

While people may think handling the two types of taxes is only a seasonal duty, the two have a clear schedule for when reminders and bills are prepared and mailed, and when to brace for the onslaught of in-person payments. They have monthly, weekly and daily reports to prepare for Franklin County and the Greencastle-Antrim School District. When Antrim Township eliminated its property tax, that also created a significant drop in revenue for the tax collector and her staff, which also includes part-time employee Gladys Paden, and for operating expenses.

Dickson said she could usually find one week in June to take a vacation, otherwise the rest of the year was very busy. The school district recently created a staggered schedule for people to pay their property taxes over three months in the fall.

"That makes more work for us," said Myers.

The office sees a steady flow of people when discounts for payments are in effect in the fall and spring.

The tax office is paid by Franklin County and G-ASD at a set fee for each invoice handled. The rates are established by the governing bodies before each four-year term starts.  In the past Antrim and Franklin County split paying the postage. Now Franklin covers all of it.

Myers enjoys the work. "I like it. It's a nice variation of duties. Some days can be overwhelming, though."

Dickson agreed. She experienced burn out, remembering long hours and the occasion she literally had a bushel basket of mail to sort. "It was too much. It's a lot of work and a lot of responsibility."

However, she is willing to stay as long as Myers needs her, and Myers wants her as long as she is willing to stay. And they are counting on Paden, too.

Office hours will remain the same, Mondays and Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to noon, and 1:30 to 4 p.m.; and Thursdays 1:30 to 5 p.m. Extended hours will be offered during the discount periods.

If someone needs to stop by during the off hours, they can call 597-5995 for an appointment. If they can drive up but can't walk into the office, Myers has a solution. "I'll go out to the car and give curbside service," she said.

Because they get to know the people who pay in person each year, Myers and Dickson have seen the effects of the economy in real terms. The number of delinquent cases has risen. Some residents share how they are trying to make ends meet on fixed incomes.

"It's getting hard for folks," said Dickson. "People are struggling."

Though the tax office is literally the messenger, residents will find friendly faces as they make the twice-a-year visit to pay their taxes, which like death, will never go away.