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The Pulaski County treasurer Thursday announced two new ways for residents to make tax payments in cash during the covid-19 outbreak: via the drive-thru lane at three Centennial Bank branches or at stores like Walmart, Kroger and Edwards Cash Saver.

Treasurer Debra Buckner said during a news conference outside the county administration building in Little Rock that her office collaborated with partners to make the alternative payment options available to residents after many public buildings closed when the outbreak reached Arkansas this spring.

Even before the pandemic at the start of the year, the treasurer's office needed to collect $531 million from 380,000 parcels, Buckner said.

A "soft opening" beginning Sept. 1 for the drive-thru option at Centennial Bank locations took in $1,076,000 in tax revenue as of Wednesday, Buckner said. She described it as a sign that "the public is receiving this very well."

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Payments can be made at Centennial Bank branches at 2922 S. University Ave. and 13910 Cantrell Road in Little Rock, as well as 4514 Camp Robinson Road in North Little Rock.

Tax payments cannot be made in the bank lobby, however, and customers must use drive-thru lane four between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to the treasurer's office. A drop box for tax payments made via check, not cash, is also available at the banks.

At the walk-in locations, such as Walmart, Pulaski County taxpayers can pay their bills in cash at a customer service or bill-pay window like they would for a utility bill or cellphone bill, Buckner said.

"Right off the bat, we heard, 'Wow, I don't have to worry about mailing a check or doing a credit card or whatever," Buckner said.

The deadline for making 2019 property tax payments before they become delinquent is Oct. 15, approximately three weeks away.

Although residents already could pay property taxes online, the new options announced were designed for "a large contingent of our customers who have a ritual -- they like to come to a tax office and pay in cash," Buckner said.

Gordon Silaski, the division president of Centennial Bank, said the request was like none the bank's staff had seen previously.

"But for us," he added, "it was never a question of 'if,' it was always just, 'How? How can we get this done?'"

Silaski said that with the "blessing" of the Arkansas State Bank Department, the bank put together a task force to work on the project in order to help county residents and assist the treasurer's office.

Bob Sanders, general manager of Arkansas Information Consortium LLC -- a subsidiary of NIC Inc., the national web services provider for government offices -- said the Pulaski County program is the first of its kind in Arkansas.

According to Sanders, research from his organization shows that approximately 6.5% of U.S. households either do not use a bank or prefer to pay in cash. Additionally, many taxpayers prefer to make payments at retail locations close to home, he said.

"This new service allows Arkansans to make Pulaski County property tax payments at any one of 300 walk-in locations around the state," Sanders said. "Even Arkansans outside the state can make payments at over 4,000 locations nationwide using cash."

Sanders said officials will evaluate the program in the next few weeks as the tax deadline approaches. They hope to be able to offer it to more government offices in the future, he said.

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