Treasurer targeting naughty on his list

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Much like Santa, Stephen Dale Burcham is making a list and checking it twice. But Burcham knows all the people on his list have been naughty because they have not paid their taxes.

Burcham, the new Lawrence County Treasurer who took office this summer, is ready to get tough on Lawrence County residents who aren't pulling their weight and obeying the law.

Last week, the Lawrence County Commission gave its OK to Burcham's plan of creating a task force to crack down on residents who are long delinquent in paying real estate taxes and have made no attempts to fix the problem.

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Burcham deserves lots of credit for taking the initiative to correct this problem that only causes an already financially strapped county to struggle even more. Property tax is vital to county offices which depend on these funds to operate.

Think the Lawrence County's Sheriff Office needs more deputies? Maybe that would be possible if everyone paid their taxes. Think the county needs to expand other services? That, too, may be possible.

The Tribune published Sunday a list of hundreds of property owners who were still delinquent on paying their 2004 taxes, which must be paid this year. Some owners may only owe less than $100 while others still owe thousands.

Once all the numbers are crunched, property owners owe the county nearly $800,000. That money could go a long way toward filling the county coffers and providing the commissioners more tools with which to work.

Not content to just crack down once a year, Burcham said he also hopes to have regular tax sales of properties on which back taxes are owed and to host meetings and other opportunities that would make it easier to pay taxes. He has already worked with several local banks to help this process.

In 2003, county officials filed suit against owners of more than 1,500 parcels of property. Some property owners came in and paid their bills and some land was auctioned. The entire process generated more than $1 million for the county.

We applaud Burcham for these pro-active efforts that focus on the both the &#8220symptoms” and the &#8220sickness.”

Each and every Lawrence Countian on the list should step up and pay what they owe. We understand that tough economic times can make that difficult but paying your property taxes is not optional.

Santa may leave coal and switches for the naughty, Burcham is looking to come down a little harder for those who make his list.

And he is right on the money in doing so.