Wed, Jan 17, 2018 07:23 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Lost but not forgotten
Unpaid taxes cost schools, other plenty
by Lilly Adkins

Martin County Bureau

INEZ Martin County Attorney Kennis Maynard says that he plans to start collecting five year's worth of delinquent property taxes, and that he will force the sale of property if he is unable to make the debtors pay what they owe.

Records show that various public agencies in Martin County, including the school district, lost more than $625,000 over the past five years from failure to collect unpaid property taxes.

Property tax rates can vary from year to year, based on the total value of property assessments but, according to the rates provided by the county clerk's office, Martin County hasn't changed their property tax rates in the last five years.

According to the clerk's office, the state, county, school district, health department, extension office, library and the sheriff each receive a portion of the money collected each year, but the amounts they get vary according to rates and the percentage collected.

While the plan to collect back taxes due would be only a one time boost, Maynard said "every little bit helps."

Actual tax bills show that there is $625,524.53 remaining to be collected for delinquent property taxes in Martin County over the last five years. That figure doesn't reflect penalties, interest and other charges applied to the bills.

Maynard has requested copies of the list of delinquent taxes, but has not received them yet. Deputy clerk Tonya Delong said Tuesday that she would have the list ready soon.

"I haven't gotten the copies yet, but when I do, I will start going after the money," Maynard said. "There is one company that owes over $100,000 and we are trying to track them down now. I don't know if we can collect it all, but every little bit helps and we are going to do what we can to collect it."

Due to the layoffs Tuesday of county employees, Maynard is acting as his own secretary and he no longer has an assistant county attorney.

"I've been going to court during the day and then, in the evenings, I come back to the office to prepare whatever I need for court the next day," Maynard said. "When I get the copies, I will start working on them."

Maynard said that he will do what it takes to collect the money even if it means taking the property.

"Well, if they can't pay, I have no choice but to take the property," Maynard said. "I'll give them the choice, but it will be up to them whether they give up their property or pay their bill."

State law allows Maynard to force the sale of private property to enforce the payment of delinquent taxes.

The county's tax rate of 11.5 per $100 valuation, has remained the same for the past five years. The county could get as much as $71,935.33 from the collection of delinquent taxes.

The state's rate has changed each year. In 1997, the rate was 15.7; 1998 -15.3; 1999 - 14.8; 2000 - 14.1 and 2001 - 13.6.

According to those rates, the state would receive as much as $91,526.99 if five-year's worth of delinquent taxes are collected.

The largest portion of the collected delinquent tax money would go to the Martin County school district, whose rates were 42.1 in 1997 and 1998; 48.6 in 1999 and 50 per $100 valuation in 2000 and 2001.

Based upon those rates, the school system would be entitled to $293,046.64 of the total that could be collected in delinquent taxes.

Tax rates for the health department were 4 in 1997 and 1998 and 3.5 in 1999, 2000 and 2001, which would entitle them to $23,029.63 if all back taxes are collected.

The county's extension office could receive a total $15,351.96 from the collection effort.

Based upon varying yearly tax rates, the Martin County Library could receive up to $38,969.25 if all back taxes from the last five years are collected.

The sheriff's office could receive up to $90,028.01 of the collected monies.

"There may be some businesses that are no longer in operation and some of the folks may have passed away, so it will be a difficult job," Maynard said of the coming collection effort. "I doubt whether we will be able to collect all of them, but we will collect everything we can. I can go back five years and still collect.

"I know I pay my taxes," Maynard added, "so it's only fair (everyone else) pay theirs too. This is something that has been allowed to go on for years and it shouldn't have. People need to pay their taxes."

Under state law, Maynard can first send letters out to tax delinquents directing them to settle up on old bills. If they refuse, he can file suit in circuit court to obtain an order directing the auction of property to satisfy property tax liens. In most cases, the state's Revenue Cabinet participates as a plaintiff.

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