At a Monday, June 17 work session, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners began a preliminary discussion of some potential programs that the county may implement to reduce the burden on some county property owners who are having trouble paying their tax bills.

 As part of that effort, Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis was asked to present information about other programs in the state created by local governments.

State law already provides some tax relief options for the elderly and disabled; however, Guilford County is exploring expanding the options to more taxpayers having trouble paying their bills.

Other counties in North Carolina have implemented such programs.

One reason for the timing of possible property tax relief plans is that many people in Guilford County are having trouble paying their property taxes in this time of high inflation and high home values.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston started the discussion off by noting that this is something the board had discussed before, and he added that he’d asked Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis to explore some options to help those who could not pay their taxes – especially those who were elderly, handicapped, or in certain dire circumstances.

“I’ve asked staff to come up with some ideas and to explore some options that are already out there,” Alston said.

Chavis told the board that about 63 percent of Guilford County’s budget funding comes from property tax revenues.

“What we’re looking at here is something outside of what is granted under state statute,” he said.

As for the state relief programs, there are 171,000 households in Guilford County and current state tax relief programs are only covering 6829 of those.

The City of Greensboro already has a program in place. The city budgeted $250,000 to give some breaks to those whose tax bill increased by more than $50  between 2021 and 2023.

Under that program, there are income limits, and beneficiaries of the program also cannot have delinquent taxes on the books.

Buncombe County has a program and one requirement in that county is that you must have lived in your home for five years or more. Also, you can’t have more than $60,000 in liquid assets.

Mecklenburg County has a program as well, under which people can save up to $426 a year on their tax bill, and the City of Charlotte has a relief program that can save some homeowners $240. Charlotte residents can benefit from both of those programs in the same year.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said at the work session, “We had talked about this possibility this year, and I didn’t even know that Greensboro was offering it.”

Chavis told the board that the state implements its programs through legislation, but, in order for Guilford County to put its own programs in place, the county would offer relief through the Guilford County Division of Social Services.

Chavis, of course, didn’t have any cost estimates at this early stage in the process.

“I do know that the City of Greensboro did not spend the entire $250,000,” he said. “In fact, it was a fraction of that.”

Chavis said the City of Greensboro is going to try to inform more city residents about its tax relief program by inserting flyers in the county’s next tax bill.  He said that, if Guilford County adopts a program, the county would also place inserts countywide.

Commissioner Pat Tillman said he was really interested in seeing what the numbers would like for such a program, as did some other commissioners.

Chavis will come back to the board later this summer with a more detailed proposal.