Thursday, April 18, 2013

Some Quirks of Corozal Living

We heard by word-of-mouth that property taxes were due sometime in March or April. Unlike in the States, you don't receive any kind of invoice or notification, nor does there seem to be any strongly worded messages -- written or verbal -- to let you know what might happen if you're late or delinquent paying those taxes.

We also found out -- again by word of mouth -- that we needed to pay taxes at the Corozal Land and Survey Department. If you live in Corozal Town proper, you can just pop on over to the Town Hall. After passing the Land Department more than a few times in our trips to town, we knew right where to go. So we grabbed our Land Certificates and off we went.

Just one problem: the Land Department didn't seem to be at its location. There was no sign, no notice, no nothing. Just a building with closed doors. We had run into a similar situation when we needed to renew our car registration. After a short debate, we opted to swing by the Town Hall to see if we might get some advice on what to do and where to go.

A very nice gentleman at the Hall told us that, yes, the Land Department had recently relocated its office. However, it was too confusing to explain where the new location is and instead he suggested he show us the way in our car.

Turns out the new office is just down the street from Lano's, a hardware store David goes to on a regular basis. After parking the car, we popped into the office. There were seven people in line ahead of us, and after seeing it was going to take some time for the customer at the window to resolve her issues, David suggested that he run up the road to a grocery store, where he might be able to score some butter and kitty litter. More on that in a moment.

He returned to the Land Department about 20 minutes later and only one other customer had been waited on. It was clearly going to be at least another hour before our turn came around, so we decided to leave and come back bright and early the next day.

Today we got there a shade before 8:30 and even though the clerk had a "closed" sign on the window, there were already six or seven people waiting. We decided to wait for as long as we needed, just so we could make our payment and have it done with. I mean, you don't want to be delinquent on your taxes, right?

About 45 minutes later, our turn came. I handed the Land Certificates to the clerk, who then entered the lot numbers into her computer. Just one small problem, we weren't in the system yet. Well, it's only been just shy of a year since the Certificates had been issued. Why would one expect that the data would be available?

The clerk, who was very nice, explained that she would have to make copies of our Certificates and send them to Belmopan, where someone there would enter them into the database. It could take about a week, or maybe more. So I said, "So would it work if we came back maybe in two weeks to make our payment?" The clerk smiled and said that the Certificate info might be available by then, maybe not. In other words, whenever we decide to show up and pay is fine.

Clearly we still have some work to do to get with the Belize concept of time and priorities.

Supply and Demand

I mentioned a grocery run David did to find butter and kitty litter; two items you wouldn't think would be a big deal to locate or purchase. If you live in the States, if one store doesn't have what you're looking for, you just go to a different store to get what you need.

Here it's way different. There are a number of items that suppliers bring into the country and then ship to the various districts. If the suppliers run into problems getting the right permits or if they decide to hold stuff in Belize City, we're unable to get our hands on stuff at any grocery store here in town. A month or so ago, the supplier of Pedigree dog food ran into some problems getting the right permit to distribute. As a result, any of us who bought that brand had to purchase something else. And trust in the fact that Pedigree is probably the only decent dog food down here. The rest of the brands are nothing but colored kibble pumped with air.

So this time, it was butter and kitty litter. We heard a rumor that a decent size shipment of the litter is in Belize City, but it's being held there until some negotiations are worked through for pricing. And if you decide to make the hour and a half drive to Belize City to buy kitty litter and it's found in your car, you could get a fine.

This leaves us cat owners in a bit of a lurch. I've already borrowed some from friends and am eyeing our sand pile as the next option. One could choose to make the drive over the border to Mexico, but when it costs non-residents, like us, $37.50 each to make the crossing, well you're talking about some mighty pricey litter. I mean, I love Bronte and all, but seriously.

Eventually, some bags will make their way here. And what we've learned from this latest episode is that we will buy a couple of the biggest bags available and put one aside for situations like this. For things like butter, we did find some yesterday and bought two packages. One immediately went into the freezer. I'll keep adding to that stash when more becomes available.

Now I share all this, not so much because it's quirky or a pain in the neck to deal with, but because for those thinking of moving here, these aren't the type of situations you may hear about ahead of time. The way I look at it, the more you know, the better you can adapt.


  1. ha, I went to pay our land taxes last week-- we've held the title for 4 years-- and was told the taxes hadn't been assessed yet and we would have to go to Belmopan to do so. When we made a trip to Belmopan, the 2 people who can do the assessment were out of the office for the whole day. So I would say, no great rush to pay :)

    Also, I have never heard of such a thing as not being able to buy and transport something from another area of the country... I really don't think that's true. I'm pretty sure the only time they catch and fine you is if you have contraband items from Mexico or Guatemala (cheese, soda, beer, etc).

  2. Hi Cat,
    Glad we aren't the only ones dealing with the tax stuff. I just think it's pretty funny when you compare how it's done in the States.

    Regarding issues transporting stuff, as I mentioned it was a rumor. Could be there's nothing to it and/or there's only a problem if you try to bring a pallet load from BC to here. Can't imagine one bag of litter would cause much of a problem.

    Great to hear from you!
    P.S. Saw your post about the dry season here. We didn't move here until the middle of May last year and the rains had already started. It's interesting to have gone through a full cycle to see what weather we need to deal with and when.

  3. Long time lurker here... Several friends of mine swear by Chicken Crumbles (a type of chicken feed)from the feed stores state side. Not sure if they sell it down south. They say it is the exact same thing as but for a fraction of the price.

  4. Hi Unknown Long Time Lurker! Thanks for the info about Chicken Crumbles. Don't know if there's anything like that here, but it's sure worth looking into.