LACONIA — The local impact of COVID-19 has been obvious, from the widespread wearing of face masks to the scarcity of paper products on supermarket shelves. But when it comes to property tax payments, it has been business as usual, local officials report.
The vast majority of property owners in Laconia, Gilford, Belmont, and Meredith paid their property taxes on time or soon afterward. Property tax receipts show the four communities have so far collected about 95 percent of what they billed in May.
“We’re on target for where we were at this time last year,” Meredith Town Manager Phil Warren said.
Belmont Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin offered a similar assessment. “It’s very typical to prior years,” she said.
Local communities issue property tax bills twice a year — once in May, with the payment due by July 1, and again in October, which is due Dec. 1.
Laconia issued bills totaling $23,203,364. As of July 31 the city had received $22,186,856 — or 95.6 percent, according to City Manager Scott Myers.
The situation is very similar in surrounding communities.
Gilford billed $16,139,080 and collected $15,396,255 — or 95.6 percent; Meredith billed $15,538,710 and collected $15,061,019 — or 95 percent; Belmont billed $9,108,198, and collected $8,751,722 — or 96.1 percent.
As the coronavirus pandemic began taking hold in March, municipal officials worried that the amount of delinquent property taxes might jump as many businesses were forced to close and people were suddenly laid off.
Warren said having Meredith’s property tax payments come at the same rate as in past years is a big relief. But he is still anxious.
“I’m not as concerned as I was at the beginning of the year,” he said. "But I’m still concerned because of the length of this issue. So December’s (tax payments) could be problematic.”
He said some businesses remained closed, while others are operating under restrictions imposed by state emergency orders.
Beaudin said she, too, is wary about December’s payments.
“We weren’t anticipating a big shift (in tax payments) this time,” she said. “Where we anticipate concern is in the fall bill.”
Beaudin believes that the COVID stimulus checks the federal government sent out during the spring – coupled with the enhanced unemployment benefits – gave people a financial cushion which they used to pay their taxes. However, unemployment benefits have since been reduced and it is uncertain whether eligible Americans will get another direct stimulus payment.
Myers, however, expressed confidence that Laconia’s property tax payments will keep pace regardless of what federal lawmakers do.
“People see paying their property taxes as a priority,” he said. Property owners who lost their jobs and have not been hired back should have no trouble finding jobs elsewhere. “There are other jobs out there,” he said.