Tell that to Moore County Tax Administrator Gary Briggs, whose office recently collected 60 percent of the $1.37 million it was owed by delinquent taxpayers after publishing their names in the local newspaper, The Pilot.
Briggs published the list on March 8 as a 12-page special section in The Pilot, at a cost of $8,000. A month later his office had collected almost $821,000 of its outstanding tax debt, according to The Pilot.
“It still turns out to be an effective mechanism,” Briggs told The Pilot about the special section. “People look for other people’s names. It might make some more likely to pay next time. It is just one part of the process for collecting property taxes.”
Like other jurisdictions in North Carolina, Moore County is required by law to publish a list of delinquent taxpayers and the amounts they owe on various parcels of property. The legislative mandate is necessary even though the county repeatedly informs citizens directly by mail when their taxes are due. Briggs said that despite these warnings some people are still surprised when their name shows up on the list of tax liens.
“We get people calling us saying they did not know they were delinquent,” he told The Pilot.
When newspaper notice provides such great results, why would public officials continue to introduce bills that would move public notice from newspapers to government websites? “Once you unzip this wolf from its sheep costume,” said The Pilot in an editorial, “you get down to the real intent: selectively punishing an industry.”