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Our View: Level playing field remains for taxpayers

It's tempting to extend compassion to those hurting from the recent economic downturn.

So it wasn't a surprise when several St. Croix County Board members proposed a reduction in the interest rate charged to those who fall behind in their property tax payments.

Backers of the idea claimed that county officials shouldn't kick property owners when they are down. The idea of the interest rate reduction, they claimed, would ensure that those without jobs wouldn't fall further into a financial hole.

The interest rate reduction would last for only a few months before reverting back to its previous level, they suggested.

The problem, however, is the message such a proposal would send to taxpayers who religiously pay their taxes on time, whether times are good or not so good.

The majority of county board members got it right when they rejected the proposal. Delinquent taxpayers will continue to pay 12 percent interest on the unpaid portion of their taxes.

As its stands now, about 4.72 percent of the parcels in St. Croix County are behind in taxes. A lowered penalty for late tax payments would only invite many more people to delay paying their second half of property taxes that are due July 31, causing a financial burden for county government.

Added financial burdens for the county means more burdens for all taxpayers, and that's not an acceptable outcome.

While the growing number of foreclosures in the county is difficult to stomach, we doubt a interest rate holiday would provide little help for families struggling to stay in their homes.

The county should stick to its present policies in an effort to get everyone to pay their taxes on time. Those who don't (whether they can afford to pay or have a tough time paying) need to incur a significant enough penalty that it encourages everyone to pay their fair share.