Napa County’s busiest place of business on Thursday was a row of three glass booths inside the Administration Building, where residents had one last day to pay their property taxes. But even with a 5 p.m. deadline looming, many of the final-day arrivals saw no reason to come by any sooner than necessary.
“I can’t see me giving them interest I’ve been earning for myself,” Jeff Davis of Napa said, shortly after passing a green envelope to a county Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office employee shortly before 11:30 a.m. “I’m not a procrastinator, but it seems too dumb to lose interest.”
“I just want to hang on to my money as long as I can!” Christine Schalwitz, another Napan, said with a hearty laugh. “But it’s also making sure I have a little extra padding I might need for an emergency. You can’t avoid property taxes but I do like to hang on to it.”
“Keeping my money for as long as possible; I’m sure that’s everybody’s answer,” Chad Williams said, arriving to pay assessments on his Napa home and an investment property. For Williams and some others, waiting brought another benefit: a chance to file federal and state taxes earlier, then use a refund check to soften the blow on a county assessment.
April 10 is the deadline for property owners to send in the second of their two tax installments for 2013-14. Curbside signs on Third Street, facing the Administration Building, marked the occasion — 15 minutes per space, for taxpayers only — and a quiet but constant flow of envelope-holding visitors led to the payment windows of the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office.
The department does not add to its regular 13-person staff on deadline day, but Thursday’s activity was “all hands on deck — whether it’s opening mail, working the phones, working the counter, we’re all here 8 to 5,” said Treasurer Tamie Frasier.
A broad array of cities, schools and special districts are funded from the 1 percent property tax, plus special assessments, charged on a property’s assessed value. School districts and the county Office of Education receive about 65 percent of the revenue, the county 22 percent, cities 11 percent and a group of 10 water, fire and other districts 1.8 percent, according to Auditor-Controller Tracy Schulze.
County residents also were able to meet the deadline by mailing their forms with a postmark for the due date, but many morning visitors found it easier to pay in person, especially those prone to waiting until the final day.
“I work right next door for the county, in the traffic division (of the courthouse), so it’s convenient,” Krisi Pilkington said while preparing to pay the assessment on her condominium.
“I’m one of the procrastinators here in Napa!” she added with a chuckle. “But I’m not holding onto my money; my tax actually went down this year with a revaluation, so I’m glad for that.”
“This is the first time I’ve paid on the last day,” said James Wagner of Napa. “My wife’s out of town; she’s usually the one to handle this. With federal taxes I’m usually filing for extensions; under the name ‘Wagner’ you can file ‘procrastinator.’”
Another taxpayer arrived not to pay the assessment on her own home, but on a historic landmark.
Nancy Levenberg, executive director of the Napa County Historical Society, was preparing to leave the county the group’s second tax installment on the Henry Haus Blacksmith Shop, a wooden structure built in 1897 in Pope Valley. The experience was an unexpectedly relaxing one, and not only because of the featherweight $6.73 bill. (The historical society does not pay property tax on its First Street home, the Goodman Library, which the city of Napa owns.)
“I’m a block away so I can wait until the last minute, and it gets me out of the office,” she said. “I worked Upvalley for years (as president of the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce) and I never once paid (property tax) in person, but now it’s fun.”