Polk pursues delinquent taxpayers; starts with top 10

Published 2:10 pm Friday, September 11, 2009

Polk County plans to be particularly aggressive pursuing delinquent taxes this year.

The county recently began the foreclosure process on the top 10 delinquent taxpayers and plans to continue moving down the pending foreclosure list 10 taxpayers at a time.

The Polk County Tax Office says it will be using all means at the county&squo;s disposal to collect back taxes, including garnishing bank accounts, taking state tax refunds and foreclosing on property.

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The county recently mailed certified notice of intent to foreclose letters to the taxpayers on the top 10 delinquent tax list.

Those taxpayers will have a certain date to have the taxes paid in full and if the taxes are still unpaid by the date the county will turn it over to its attorney to start foreclosure.

The top 10 list of taxpayers owes $73,046 of the $405,525 owed for this year. Woodland Mills tops the list by owing $27,030 to the county in unpaid taxes.

Polk County is currently owed $405,525 as of Aug. 31 for its 2009 taxes compared to $490,865 owed at the same time in 2008. The county was owed $383,016 the same time in 2007.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson says the county has to be strict in collecting taxes this year because the county lowered its tax rate this year to be revenue neutral without growth following the county&39;s property revaluation. The rate is the equivalent of a 3-cent tax cut compared to a non-revaluation year, which was the largest cut of any county in the state this year.

Whitson says the county&squo;s sales tax revenue from the state is about $1.5 million lower per year and with the county basing this year&squo;s budget on a 98.17 percent tax collection rate, that means that taxes are going to have to be paid.

&dquo;It has been my experience in the past that financially challenged individuals pay their taxes and those who are delinquent just don&squo;t like to pay their taxes,&dquo; Whitson says. &dquo;It is a fairness issue. If you and I have to pay our taxes and we are responsible citizens and do, shouldn&squo;t everyone pay their taxes? If everyone will pay their taxes then everyone can have a lower tax rate.&dquo;

The county&squo;s tax collection rate in 2007-2008 was 98.17 percent, but it appears from preliminary audit reports that the collection rate in 2008-2009 is going to be about 96.99 percent, or about one percent below the previous year and what the county based its budget on for this year. Whitson says that trend has to change.

One penny in Polk&39;s tax rate of 52 cents is worth $255,960, so one percent on the collection rate means about $133,100 for the county, Whitson explains.

&dquo;Therefore, every percent we collect is about equal to one-half cent on the tax rate,&dquo; Whitson says. &dquo;As an example, that means that if our collection rate fell to 94 percent this fiscal year, we would have to raise taxes by almost two cents to have the same revenues that we budgeted for this year. We do not intend to let that happen.&dquo;

Also included on the top 10 list is Trustee Ursula Thompson ($7,283), Gilda S. Bolen ($5,387), Andrew Joseph Torter ($4,593), Duncan Cairnes Ely ($4,523), Prospero Group, LLC ($4,435), Terry Kirkland Cook ($4,428), Esther Glenn Estate ($4,170), Paul N. Dale ($3,878) and CRC Investments, LLC ($3,530).

The county has already begun the foreclosure process for Prospero Group, LLC in Saluda for its taxes owed and is planning action on the other nine after failing to gain payment following letters and phone calls.