With first-half property taxes due Friday, the St. Louis County Board will consider relief from late-payment penalties at its online meeting Tuesday.

The County Board and Auditor Nancy Nilsen have been wrestling with providing some form of leniency given the economic hardships brought upon property owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary closure of many businesses "has resulted in dramatic loss of income to many businesses and property owners," said the board letter being considered.

Penalties for missed payments accrue at a 2%-8% rate beginning after Friday and escalating the first of every month from that point on.

The proposal on the table would allow qualifying taxpayers to seek forgiveness of late payment penalties. To qualify, taxpayers would have to have experienced financial hardship related to the impact of COVID-19.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The county said it will continue to seek state legislative guidance regarding a delay of the first-half property taxes due date. So far, no action has been taken on the state level. Counties do not have the authority to extend the deadline.

Since the county serves as a tax collector for cities, townships and schools, delayed tax payments could have an impact on cash flow in local jurisdictions.

Last week, Nilsen called it "a delicate line that we're walking here to be able to make this happen."

Her concern is that allowing late payments could result in jurisdictions not being able to fund routine services. Through the end of April, the county's collections amounted to roughly 15% of first-half taxes, and Nilsen said the county needed at least 50% in order to satisfy local jurisdictional needs.

"My concern is that the more we advertise and let people know there may be a way to delay it, then more people will delay," Nilsen said.

The public is not allowed to attend Tuesday's board meeting in person due to protective measures against COVID-19.

How to comment on agenda items

  • The phone number to comment on agenda items is 218-726-2110, but the deadline is 4 p.m. Monday to comment at Tuesday's meeting.
  • There are also email and interactive ways to reach the board during its 9:30 a.m. meeting, based at the Government Services Center in downtown Duluth. The Webex link to the online meeting is here, or visit here to find additional ways to contact the board.