A move by the state to change the way vehicular property taxes are sent out is going to hurt one local business.
The state is taking over the collection of property taxes on vehicles in an effort to increase the collection rates in counties which are having trouble collecting taxes, a change that many tax officials see as more of a headache than a help.
“We’re currently processing tax documents for 35 counties in North Carolina, which is about a third of the counties in North Carolina,” he said.
Springthorpe said that upon hearing about the change, which will move billing and collection for property taxes from the county level to the state level, he was told his company would not even be considered for processing duties.
“We’ve been told that there will not be an opportunity for us to even bid on the statewide contract,” he said, noting that the news came from a “consultant running the implementation for the state.”
“No reason was given,” Springthorpe added.
After years of processing tax bills, SouthData is known across the state for the work they do, Springthorpe said.
The company has been processing tax documents for counties around the state since the late 1990s.
“It’s disheartening that our government of our home state would do this to us,” he said, noting that Surry County’s state representative, Sarah Stevens, has filed legislation to stop the changes to the billing procedure.
“Until this change came along, we had the dominant share of the work in North Carolina, so we’re going to see more impact than any other company will,” he said.
According to Springthorpe, the printing and processing of tax notices will be handled by the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
“They say it will be done in-house without any outsourcing,” he said.
SouthData, which employs about 110 area residents, will feel the pinch of the lost business, but Springthorpe said he hopes it doesn’t result in lost jobs.
“The processing of those documents is a little less than five percent of our total workload, so this isn’t going to put us out of business but it certainly has an impact,” he said.
Springthorpe said that at this point “no one’s job is at risk, but we’d certainly like to think we’d have an equal opportunity to do the work.”
“It’s been a little disappointing, especially when you consider that no reason was given to us about why we wouldn’t even be considered,” he said.
While no one is going to lose a job at this point, Springthorpe acknowledged that his employees could potentially be affected.
“It’s more likely to slow down future hiring, but we believe it’s not going to endanger jobs right now,” he said. “We’re just going to be less likely to add more jobs in the future.”
He suggested he can’t see a benefit to anyone from the change in processing protocol.
“I’m interested in doing what’s best,” he said. “And I’m doubtful that this is an improvement over the way it’s been presented to sell it to the state legislature.”
An effort to contact a representative to determine why SouthData wasn’t offered a bid was unsuccessful, an outcome that county Tax Director Michael Hartgrove said is not surprising.
“Even we don’t know who’s making the decisions (about the change in billing procedure),” he said. “No one knows and we’re having trouble, too.
“It’s been like a good-old-boy, behind-the-scenes effort.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.