Two weeks ago, St. Louis County only had collected 15% of its property tax payments and people were concerned the COVID-19 pandemic might hamper property owners' ability to pay.

Now, one week after the May 15 deadline for first-half payments, receipts are pouring in, and the county is beginning to make its first round of payouts to cities, townships and school districts.

"Our taxpayers are really coming through," Auditor Nancy Nilsen said.

St. Louis County Auditor Nancy Nilsen (File / News Tribune)
St. Louis County Auditor Nancy Nilsen (File / News Tribune)

Through Tuesday, the county had received $146 million. Comparing it to the same date last year, the figure was $144.8 million.

"Of course there was an increase in the levies this year," Nilsen said, to drive home the point that it's not totally comparable.

The amounts to date are for all taxes paid, both first and second half.

The total first half payments due are $171.4 million. The percentage of first-half paid so far is 76%, which adds up to $130.3 million. Second-half payments that are already in amount to $15.7 million.

Also, there are taxpayers applying to pay their first-half taxes July 15, citing hardship due to COVID-19. The County Board passed the measure earlier this month, and taxpayers hit hard by the pandemic have until May 31 to apply to meet the penalty-free late deadline.

"They have been applying," Nilsen said.

To date, $1.175 million in payments has been delayed to July 15.

Through April 30, only $32 million in property taxes had come through — which had been down sharply from the previous year's $51 million. At the time, Nilsen said the county needed at least 50% in order to satisfy local jurisdictional needs.

The level of payments to date means that Nilsen and her office can begin to make payments to jurisdictions that submitted requests for early payment, which is allowable.

"We typically get about 20 requests or so per year, and this year is no exception," she said.

After payments through May 31 have been posted, the auditor's office will send out payments to all the jurisdictions for what has been received to date.

Last week, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson worried that property tax collections would fall beyond the 5%-20% the city had earlier expected to be missing due to the economic hardships of COVID-19. At the time, the county had received 60% of first-half taxes from property owners.