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Lawsuit nets #036;2M in taxes

Apparently throwing the book at tax dodgers works - to the tune of more than $2 million in newly collected taxes.

In April, Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., filed a lawsuit against the owners of more than 2,000 parcels of real estate throughout the county, seeking to collect back taxes owed on those properties.

Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Waldo said since then more than $2 million of the estimated $2.3 million in unpaid taxes has been collected, as people who owed taxes have come forward to pay up.

"This is good news," Waldo said. "About 65 to 70 percent of this money goes to local schools. There has been tremendous cooperation between the different county offices, the treasurer's office, sheriff's office, prosecutor's office, other offices. It's been a joint effort. We started with well over 2,000 parcels of land. We now have about 1,600."

On Friday, those 1,600 plots of land will be sold at a public auction on the Lawrence County Courthouse steps. All of the land involved in the sale has accumulated delinquent taxes over a period of at least three years.

Waldo said still, delinquent taxpayers do have the ability to redeem their property by paying the taxes owed in full, even after the land is sold. Each sale must be confirmed by an entry filed with the Lawrence County Clerk of Courts office. A property owner may redeem that property by paying in full the taxes owed up until the time the entry is filed, Waldo said.

Waldo said those who want to bid on property should arrive at the courthouse a half an hour before the sale commences at 9 a.m., to register to be a qualified bidder. Those who buy property at the sale must pay for it in cash or by certified check by 3 p.m. Friday.

Any property not sold Friday will be put up for sale again at 9 a.m. Aug. 29. Any property left over at the second sale will be sold at a third sale that will be scheduled for a later date.

Waldo said those who purchase property at the sale should realize that any liens on the property remain with that property after they purchase it.

"All liens survive the sale," Waldo said.

Collier said when the suit was filed that it has been four or five years since the county made this sort of effort to collect delinquent taxes.

"If one person abides by the law and pays their taxes, then everyone should," Waldo said. "Our goal is to get as close to 100 percent tax collection as we can."