The 2011 taxes had been due Nov. 15 on the Victorian style home that hundreds of Savannah-area volunteers helped build in late 2010 after the family was chosen for the since-canceled ABC program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” A fundraiser for the family also paid off their previous mortgage.
On Monday morning, the Chatham County bill of $8,028.81 was paid with a cashier’s check. The bill reflected $1,067 in penalties, interest and fees, including
1 percent interest added Friday. The Savannah property tax bill of $3,421.66, which also included interest because it was four months overdue, was also paid in full the same morning with a cashier’s check.
Jim Simpson said he paid off both with his own funds.
Public records list the fair market value of the four-bedroom, three-bath house on East 55th Street as $664,400.
Jim Simpson, who is the pastor of the storefront City Church Savannah and who runs a small business called Shift Creative, said last week the property taxes were higher than he had expected and that the issue of paying them was a matter of “cash flow.” He estimated on March 12 it would take him two to three weeks more to pay. Instead, the taxes were paid the next business day after the lien was reported in the Savannah Morning News.
In an e-mail Monday he elaborated on his family’s situation, saying that while they remained thankful for the house it had brought unexpected challenges including large electric bills despite the home’s solar panels.
“Through the summer we were blown away with monthly utilities over $700 and sometimes $800,” he wrote. “While Georgia Power and J.T. Turner Construction have been diligent to help resolve this issue the fact is we are just having to adjust our lifestyles. During the winter those bills were 60 percent less even when we ran the pool heater. It wasn’t until summer that they jumped so high. Please, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. We love the house. We are just currently adjusting.”
The Simpsons also recently welcomed their fourth child, Ezra Joel, who was born a month and a half premature and who was released from Memorial University Medical Center on Saturday after a two-week stay.
“The Lord saw fit for Ezra to be born premature and he has responded well to the treatments in Memorial’s Neonatal Intensive Care Center and we celebrated Saturday as he was allowed to come home,” Simpson wrote. “Carmen and Ezra are both home now. Praise God for that! Still, please imagine the burden, mentally, spiritually and financially that this has been.”
Simpson’s graphic design, audio-visual and computer business employs five people, but the “current economy has left its challenges,” he said. The church he founded, from which he does not draw a salary, ministers mainly to SCAD students who “pay little or no tithes and offerings into the church.” He’s was aware of other Extreme Makeover homeowners who had lost their houses to foreclosure, including one recently in Palatka, Fla. He doesn’t intend to become one of them.
“Our house is a wonderful blessing and we are doing everything we can to keep it the way it is because our city and our neighbors have quite an investment in it,” he wrote. “I don’t have any reason to think our house is in any danger like that of the case in Florida. We love our house and Savannah and we are working very hard to keep our family happy and healthy; our church is growing and providing a source of life to the community. Our small business continues growing, which provides the resources to do things like paying our taxes.”
Simpson said he has set up an escrow account for future taxes.