There was a surprise waiting for residents who showed up Monday at the Lieutenant Governor’s Office clutching their recently received 2009 property tax bills.
On St. Thomas, at least, the parking lot was full. So were both the upstairs and downstairs offices that house cashiers. Would-be taxpayers spilled out onto the balcony of the Builder’s Emporium building, waiting hours for their opportunity to pay up and receive a 5 percent discount.
Shawna Richards, spokeswoman for the lieutenant governor, said the scene on St. Croix was similar.
“We have been experiencing a lot of traffic” throughout the territory since late last week, she said, when the bills began to arrive in residents’ mailboxes.
On St. Thomas, the mood of the crowd shifted from good humored to frustrated to resigned. Jokes and laughter generally outnumbered angry outbursts, but as the afternoon wore on, patience seemed to wear thin.
Many people “took a number” and joined the throng for a few minutes, then decided either to come back another day or take their chances on mailing in their payment.
“We certainly appreciate their patience and their understanding,” Richards said, adding that taxpayers do have the option of mailing in their payment, using the cancelled check as proof of payment.
The government does not routinely mail out receipts for property tax payments, she said, but people can enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for that purpose.
Richards could not say how many tax bills had been paid by Monday or how much money was collected. But she said officials expect the crowds to continue as long as the discounts are in effect.
In an effort to encourage payment and improve cash flow, the government is offering a 5 percent discount on 2009 property tax bills that are paid by March 15 and a 2.5 percent discount on those paid by March 30.
Payment is due by March 30, but the government does not assess a late penalty until May 30.