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District 4 Emporia City Councilman Mark Lilly joined Yolanda Hines and Carol Mercer in voting for an extension to delay penalties and interest on the city’s real estate taxes. It was one vote short as the other four City Council members voted no.

The proposed penalty waiver of real estate tax interest delay fell short by one vote during Tuesday’s Emporia City Council meeting.

On Jan. 5, District 7 City Council representative Yolanda Hines suggested the city delay the interest and penalties as surrounding communities in Brunswick and Sussex Counties did. Hines successfully proposed an extension for the personal property taxes in July.

Two weeks ago, the issue entered the forefront when Emporia resident Elaine Bensaia urged the city to add the extension. The 30-year resident said she mailed her tax bill in ample time to avoid the penalties and interest added for late payment. The city did not receive the check, and her bank had not deducted the money from her account. Bensaia said she could afford to pay the penalties and interest. However, many of her friends are not financially situated to do so due to high inflation, job loss, or other reasons.

City Treasurer Karen Taylor said she would not have opposed the delay on penalties and interest on delinquent real estate taxes payment had the issue been brought up in November. Taylor said it was too late in the game to change course.

“To date we have collected $9,571.78 in penalty and interest on the 2022 real estate taxes that would have to be refunded,” Taylor said in a memorandum to the City Council. “This included a total of 61 tax payers. The outstanding balance as of Jan. 6, 2023 is $13,254.30, which would be a loss to the city. This covers a total of 231 taxpayers. Total penalty and interest loss would be $22,826.08.”

Councilman Mark Lilly asked if the penalties and interest could be retroactive if the real estate taxes remain unpaid if the city’s governing body passed an extension. Taylor said the city would lose the late fee revenue should the extension pass.

Lilly and Carol Mercer joined Hines in voting to extend the real estate tax deadline. Doris White, Jim Saunders, Dale Temple, and Clifton Threat voted no.

In other actions:

The Emporia City Council voted 6-0 to appoint Mary Meade-Saunders to the Southside Virginia Education Center Board of Directors. She fills the position vacated by Christian Rodriguez, who no longer resides in the city limits. Meade-Saunders serves the unexpired four-year term until July 1, 2024.

The other city representatives on the Southside Virginia Education Center Board are Peggy Jones, Emporia City Council District 6 representative Dale Temple, and Emporia Mayor Dr. Carolyn Carey. The City of Emporia and surrounding localities created the Board in 2006.