Option to pay property taxes automatically benefits all

Walla Walla County Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner should be commended for working to provide this option for taxpayers.

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Taxes are necessary to pay for schools, roads, law enforcement and all of the other services we expect from government.

But paying those taxes is rarely pleasant. And sometimes it is downright painful. Consider property taxes. A hefty sum -- several thousand dollars -- must be paid every six months. Let's face it, not everybody has that much cash on hand.

However, those with mortgages pay their taxes monthly through their lender. Usually the tax payment is automatically deducted from the property owners' bank accounts.

Well, very soon that option will be available to all property owners, not just those with mortgages.

The Legislature last week approved a measure that allows county treasurers to offer prepayments for property taxes on a monthly or other periodic basis and, with the agreement of the taxpayer, have the payments automatically deducted from bank accounts.

Walla Walla County Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner, who went to Olympia to testify in favor of the legislation, said he expects to have the system set up for local taxpayers in time for the second half of tax payments in October.

Heimbginer favored the plan because, as he said, it gives county treasurers' offices "the opportunity to act like a business."

The legislation, which had support from Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Reps. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, and Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, offers advantages to government as well as taxpayers.

Monthly payments will keep a steady flow of cash coming into the treasurer's office. This means that the money will be available sooner for schools and other government offices. Several school districts in Walla Walla County go into temporary debt during the year until property taxes get paid, Heimbigner said.

The option will be a good for taxpayers who find it a challenge to save up the cash for their semi-annual payment. This pay-as-you- go plan will be a convenience. Once the system is in place the deduction will be like having car payments or other payments deducted from a checking account.

Now, some folks would prefer to pay the lump sum at the last possible moment so they can keep their money as long as possible. Under this plan they will still be able to do as they've always done. Nothing has changed in that regard. No action is required.

But those who wish to have their tax payments deducted automatically from their bank account should contact the county Treasurer's Office now to be put on a list to be notified when the system is in place.

Heimbigner and the other county treasurers who worked for this option should be commended for making government more efficient and user friendly.

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