Our long, local nightmare may finally be over.

That is, by midweek everyone in Charleston County should have their property tax bills. And only two months late.

County officials said Friday that 20 percent of the bills had been mailed with the rest due out by Tuesday, a day shy of the state's deadline.

Members of County Council are certainly glad to see this crisis end. They have spent the fall watching colleagues accuse Auditor Peggy Moseley of delaying the process, and Moseley blaming the new computer system for the foul-up. It's been a mess.

"We've got bigger issues than worrying about tax bills," Council Chairman Teddie Pryor says.

He's right, of course. This has been an unneeded distraction. But before we move on, the county needs to compensate property owners for their inconvenience.

Luckily, the council has a couple of ideas.

Giving grace

There is next to no sentiment on County Council to push back the Jan. 17 due date on tax bills.

They say folks had a ballpark idea of what their bill would be and have 48 days to pay. Even though they usually get 109 days, most pay in December for income tax purposes.

Still, Councilwoman Colleen Condon says the county should temporarily waive the fee for paying bills online. You see, tax bills have been available online since Nov. 16, but few people choose that option because the county charges a 2 percent service fee. That's $50 on a $2,500 property tax bill.

"I'm going to propose we waive that fee for some period of time, since there was a delay," Condon says.

She's right.

And Councilman Elliott Summey says folks should get a two-month grace period to pay. Right now, if you're a day late you, owe an extra 3 percent. At two weeks, that penalty jumps to 10 percent. At two months, the county hits you for -- ouch -- an extra 15 percent.

"I don't see how we can penalize people when we don't have our stuff together," Summey says.


No harm?

County Council members are ready for this to just go away.

They have analyzed it to death, and believe the truth of this mess falls somewhere in the middle of the accusations. That is, there were problems with the computer system but Moseley made it worse by not testing the system last spring, when other departments did.

Hopefully it's over now, and things have worked out. The mortgage companies, which pay about 20 percent of the county's property bills through homeowner escrow accounts, got the bills electronically. They likely will be paid by year's end.

Council members are right that most people pay their property tax bills in December, so this hasn't turned into a tragedy. But Condon and Summey are correct that the delays were a pain.

The people of Charleston County have been patient as this overwrought drama has played out.

It's only fair for the county to do the same.