Jackson County officials say a few taxpayers are getting a surprise with their annual property tax bills: They’re paying a little more for their older cars.

Jackson County officials say a few taxpayers are getting a surprise with their annual property tax bills: They’re paying a little more for their older cars.

It has to do with the rough economy, $4 gas and Cash for Clunkers, they say.

Tax bills are being mailed this month and are due by the end of the year. They are for real estate and personal property, generally autos, and they reflect the value of those properties as of Jan 1, 2010.

“So that’s the bill they’re getting now,” said Jeph Burroughs-Scanlon of the county executive’s office.

Some math, law and recent economic history come into play. By state law, counties follow National Automobile Dealership Association figures for car values, and it pulls those figures in October.

So the figures on the current tax bills are from October 2009 – and reflect events since October 2008.

There were quite a few: Before the economy nosedived, gas touched $4 a gallon in some parts of the country in the summer of 2008, causing many to consider smaller vehicles. The economy tanked, and people largely stopped buying new cars, favoring used ones if they replaced a car at all. And the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program held up prices too.

“We’ve have a stretch for a year now where used vehicles were in higher demand because people weren’t buying new,” said Curtis Koons, the county’s director of assessment.

Economists have noted steadily for better than a year that used-auto demand has stayed strong in the low-gear economy.

The result is that about 4 percent of the tax bills the county is sending out have actually tax increases ranging from $10 to $30.

Those bills are due by Dec. 31. County offices are closed that day, though payments can be made online though 11 p.m. that day.