Number of county-owned properties has doubled from last year’s tax sale
by Dennis Sharkey
Jefferson County Commissioners are getting more and more into a business they don’t want to be in. Real estate.
County Treasurer Mary Underwood reported on Monday that there could be as many as 487 properties in the county’s next tax sale scheduled for next summer.
In October 2011 the county conducted a tax sale that had more than 280 properties in the sale.
In addition to homeowners falling behind, many of the properties were in past tax sales only to return because the buyer never paid the taxes.
“Some of those people we haven’t been able to find,” Underwood said. “Or they bought it at the last tax sale and didn’t pay anything and it goes to the next tax sale.”
A big percentage of the properties are located in Lakeside Village. Many of the lots for sale are not buildable but were bought by out-of-state companies that turn around and sell the properties to people on the Internet who have never seen them.
Some of the people visit the site and never return. If the property is not sold most of the time the companies do not pay the taxes either.
“It’s a vicious circle,” Underwood said. “When they get in trouble they change their name so we can’t find them.”
In the last tax sale the county attempted to block many of the companies from buying properties. County Clerk Linda Buttron said that had adverse effects and led to the low sales numbers.
“Then you have no bidders,” Buttron said.
Buttron said not selling the property is just as bad because the county is out the money that was spent getting the property to the tax sale.
Commissioners said they will eventually piece some lots together to make them more marketable.
Kelly Law Firm, a company currently doing personal property tax collections for the county, made a proposal on Monday. They said if they began in September it would be about a nine-month turnaround to the next sale.
Underwood said letters were sent out in April to delinquent taxpayers and more letters will be sent out this month. If property owners pay their 2008 and prior taxes by Sept. 1 they can get properties pulled out of the sale.
Once a petition is filed with the court all taxes will need to be paid to redeem the properties.
In other actions:
• County Planning and Zoning Director Bill Noll reported for the second month in a row the Planning and Zoning Commission had just enough members for a quorum despite having a full membership.
Noll said the bylaws need to be changed so if a commissioner misses five meetings they can be removed by the commissioners and replaced.
“We seem to be having a problem getting a quorum to show up,” Noll said.
Noll said the issue should be looked at in December and if possible replace one or two members. If the problem persists some immediate action could be taken.
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