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Lien sale wipes off some county back taxes

In about an hour Lawrence County got $9,144 richer. And by the end of the week that figure is expected to go up 10 times to $91,449.79.

That is the amount in back taxes that successful bidders agreed to pay following the county’s first-ever tax lien sale Monday morning in the courthouse conducted by County Treasurer Stephen Burcham.

Bidders were vying not to buy property, but rather to become the first tax lien holders on the parcels. About two years ago the Ohio legislature extended the provision of the law that regulates tax lien sales to all 88 counties. Previously only the 12 largest counties in the state could hold such sales.

The successful bidders paid only the back taxes on the property, plus administrative costs, penalties and interest.

The bidding determined the interest rate the lien buyer can receive if the property owner redeems the parcel. That interest rate began at 18 percent and went down by quarter percent.

For the lien buyers to get the property, they must foreclose against the property.

All bidders had to put down $500 in cash before the bidding began and had to pay at least 10 percent of the back taxes, also in cash. They have until the end of the week to pay the balance.

The sale brought out 14 registered bidders with 11 actually buying. Out of the 150 parcels with liens up for sale, 40 were sold.

The largest buyer was a representative from R.O.M. LLC in Huntington, W.Va., who bought up $62,379.27 in tax liens.

“I’m a real estate investor,” said the representative, who declined to give his name. “I don’t want to be in the newspaper.”

Prominent Ironton businessman Jim Kratzenberg bought only one lien on a block of three parcels owned by Lyle W. and Linda L. Smith with back taxes of $1,371.51. Kratzenberg had the winning bid of 18 percent.

“I think this was great for the county,” Kratzenberg said. “This has brought in a lot of money for the taxpayers and the schools. Some of those have been on the books for years.”

The most spirited bidding came from a lien on property held by Donald G. Phillips with $1,509 in back taxes.

The winning bid for that lien came from Carroll Ramey of the eastern end of the county with an interest rate brought down to 7 and three-fourths per cent.

There are at least two companies interested in putting together packages of properties whose liens did not sell. Since the parcels were put on the auction block, Burcham now has the authority to renegotiate the actual taxes on the properties.

When they pay those new taxes, then the companies would become lienholders for those parcels with an 18 percent interest rate on the renegotiated amount.

If the property owners wanted to redeem the parcels, they would have to pay the full amount of back taxes. The company that bought the tax lien would get reimbursed the amount that it paid plus 18 percent interest.

“I indicated I would like to see (packages) by Friday,” he said.

Burcham said he was pleased with the results on the sale and plans to do a second one in October.

“I am expecting it to be between two and four million dollars of back taxes,” he said.