The Norman Transcript

June 11, 2013

Aggressive tax collections gain schools money

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Moore schools and other beneficiaries of property taxes could lose $2.5 million in revenue as a result of recent tornadoes, Cleveland County Assessor David Tinsley said Monday.

That figure does not include other Cleveland County losses in the Little Axe area. Fortunately for area schools, County Treasurer Jim Reynolds collected delinquent property taxes at a higher level this year. That money could help offset some of the losses.

“The preliminary figures show a loss in assessments of $15,068,708,” Tinsley said. “This would equate to $1,674,284 in lost taxes to the Moore area. That figure may go as high as $22,000,000 assessed or $ 2,500,000 in tax dollars.”

By fortunate coincidence, Reynolds, after consulting with the district attorney’s office, decided to pursue full collection of back property taxes this year.

“As we interpreted the law, once taxes are delinquent, all taxes are payable,” Reynolds said. “Prior to this year, they had been allowing them to pay the oldest year taxes to avoid the resale, but they owed so much more that weren’t making it to the schools and to the county.”

Starting last year, Reynolds had his staff warn people that the collection of delinquent taxes was going to change to include all taxes owed to avoid property being sold in the treasurer’s June resale. At first, some were upset and angry and feared they could not raise the money, he said, but in the end, people found ways to pay.

Reynolds commended his staff for working with the owners of record to bring the taxes up to date. He said no one lost property because they could not afford to pay the tax.

Getting caught up benefited the property owner as well as the schools and the county. Delinquent taxes are subject to 18 percent interest annually. Most owners were grateful that the treasurer’s staff worked with them, setting up payments to get them current on their taxes, he said.

In January, 314 delinquent accounts were subject to the resale. Many properties advertised with excessively delinquent taxes were paid off leading up to the June resale Monday morning.

“We had 61 properties this year, which is a comparable number to last year,” Reynolds said. “Of those 61, 46 of them were sold to individuals, and 25 will be deeded to the county.”

While the final tally isn’t in yet, numbers will be sizable. One account collected this year was more than $312,000 and another was $80,000, said Vickie Sanders, second deputy with the treasurer’s office.

“With them paying all four years, the schools have got to be excited. They should be getting good money when they do these apportionments,” Sanders said.

People looking for a bargain found plenty at Monday’s resale. A property listed for $1,669 in back taxes was purchased by a bidder for $32,000, Reynolds said. The county does not earn a profit on the properties sold at resale. Any balance beyond taxes due is turned over to the owner of record, Reynolds said.

If those property owners don’t pick up that money within a year, it does revert to the county, but Reynolds said usually property owners pick up their money.

“The sale is officially open until Wednesday night, and people can buy properties for the minimum opening bid on a first-come first-serve basis,” Reynolds said.

After Wednesday night, the properties officially revert to the county. People can still buy the land after that but have to go through a lengthy two-month process. Some of the properties left are acreages, Reynolds said, and can be developed. For more information, call 366-0217 and ask for the resale department.

In other county business, District 2 County Commissioner Darry Stacy said a contractor is picking up construction debris, and the county is picking up vegetative debris throughout the county. County crews are trying to catch up on road projects that started before severe storms tore through the area.

“We’re still cleaning up,” District 3 County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said. He said storms and the resulting debris have created lots of work, but District 1 crews came over to help his crews on one project.

“We’re all helping each other. There’s no real boundaries on this now,” Sullivan said. “Johnson grass is already waist high, so we’re behind the 8-ball.”

County commissioners awarded a bid for a gradall hydraulic excavator to Kirby Smith Machinery for $351,074 at Monday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. Sheriff Joe Lester formally presented a $250,000 donation from Mercury One Inc. to help purchase a new command post for the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office. Lester expressed gratitude for the generosity of Mercury One.

County commissioners also approved the following blanket purchase orders:

· District 2 — Palace Auto Supply $2,000, Fred’s Tire & Battery $1,500, A Weldors Supply Inc. $1,000, Chappell Tires $500

· District 3 — Dave’s Small Engine Repair Inc. $1,500, Pearson Lumber & Home Care $1,000

· Sheriff’s Office — David Stanley Chevrolet of Norman $7,000

Commissioners also approved the following purchase orders: General Fund $694,308; Highway Fund $100,415; Health Fund $19,194; Sheriff Service Fee Fund $1,850; Sheriff Commissary Fund $8,132; Sheriff Revolving Fund $85,802; Treasurer Certificate Fee Fund $3,145; Treasurer Sales Tax Cash Fund $619,275; County Clerk Lien Fee Fund $259; County Clerk Preservation Fee Fund $28,587; Fair Board Fund $452; Sheriff Courthouse Security Service Fee Fund $26,803

Joy Hampton