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Tax collections lagging; winter weather blamed

The cold weather has slowed first-half tax collections as frigid temperatures kept people from heading for the courthouse or their nearest bank.

As the March 7 deadline nears, however, the county treasurer’s staff is preparing not only to process up to $13 million in property taxes but to organize upcoming tax lien sales for 2014.

“We are running a little behind,” county treasurer Stephen Burcham said. “That is due a lot to the weather. But also some of the mortgage companies haven’t remitted their payments and we have not had a chance to process those.”

Although use of the website to make payments continues to grow, the majority of taxpayers still use the various local banks that are set up to take property taxes, mail or come into the courthouse.

“Looking at the window there are more people using the banks for walk-in service,” Burcham said. “When they are coming to the window, they are also coming to set up payment plans, signing up for the Homestead Exemption or have questions about their tax bill.”

On Tuesday the treasurer’s office staff sent out 280 letters to delinquent taxpayers.

“There is the potential they could be on the next tax lien sale if they fail to remit their taxes,” Burcham said. “A large number is in Rome (Township) and South Point where there is a large number of delinquent assessments as well as delinquent taxes.”

A delinquent assessment is when a taxpayer hasn’t paid for a service such as sewer or grass cutting for a period of time, the delinquent amount is placed on the individual’s property taxes.

For the past three years, the county treasurer has conducted tax lien sales that have brought in close to $3 million in back taxes and to the county.

Those liens that did not sell at auction were offered to TaxEase, a property tax lender in a negotiated sale. Originally there was approximately $954,000 in back taxes. Before the sale to TaxEase, however, taxpayers came in to redeem property owing approximately $400,000 in back taxes.

Terms of that sale allowed Tax-Ease to decline to take a percentage of the liens with the company buying about $289,000 in liens. That was about half of the liens offered. Burcham plans to submit the remainder to another tax lien agency.