NEWTON GROVE — The town board rallied together Monday night to push for better tax collection of delinquent taxes, a move designed to get the revenue due the town into the forefront of the minds of citizens who are behind.
“Basically we have collected 98.8 percent of our taxes for the year,” detailed town clerk Amanda Turner during the evening meeting. Turner presented the board with a list of the remaining balances, leading to board members taking a serious look at the delinquent debts.
“The majority of this year’s has been collected,” Turner explained to the board. “Most of what is still owed is for previous years.”
Commissioner Gary Mac Herring, looking over the report, requested further clarification of what he was seeing.
“We cannot collect anything more than 10 years old,” Turner detailed. “Those will have to be written off. Our auditor…has already suggested that we write off everything from 2008 and before. Most of them are personal property…. That’s what the majority of our older ones are, personal property.”
In some cases wage garnishment has already started, but Turner said that no money has been received yet.
“So they have a piece of property, what are our options? Garnishment?” asked Herring.
“Garnishment, foreclosure,” answered Turner. “That’s basically it.” Foreclosure would involve advertising, Herring said, with Turner reminding them that it is a a long process. Turner went on to explain that it is like a lien on their property, and that money would be recouped after the property is sold.
“But we are not going to get anything from that until they sell the property or die, or something happens,” said Commissioner Laura Wheeler.
Turner has sent letters to to the property owner to garnish their wages, but nothing has come of that yet, she said.
“It sounds like you have done a good job at trying to contact who you can,” said Commissioner Steve Jackson to Turner. Wheeler wondered if some of those people were just unable to pay or simply did not want to pay.
“Everybody on this list knows they owe the money,” reiterated Turner.
“They have been sent letters,” interjected Mayor Barbara Burch.
“I try everything I can to get it from them,” noted Turner. “Some of them you can and some of them you can’t.”
Jackson offered his own idea, and stated his intention to help carry it out.
“Well, I have no problem doing it, you give me a letter I have no problem, I’ll make a personal house call,” said Jackson about seeing that the letters are put in the right person’s hand.
The board also weighed the cost of filing a lawsuit against the potential worth of the property. In the event of a lawsuit, the property owner would have to pay the back taxes, their own attorney fees if they fought it, and also the fees for the town’s attorney. Those debts would be attached to the property.
“I think that we should show a courtesy letter, and I have no problem, you tell me where they are at and I will go personally introduce myself and say this is what we are doing,” asserted Jackson.
The town clerk offered further explanation. “The thing is, on real property, if you owe taxes, even if you sell it, and the taxes don’t get paid, the new owners also become responsible for the taxes,” said Turner. “The taxes stay with the land.”
It was also brought up that county taxes have to be paid before you can record a deed, but that is not the case for the town’s taxes. Members said that was something they needed to look into, with the possibility of passing a similar ordinance.
The town can also contract with the county for tax collection as some of the smaller towns do already. The county strictly enforces the laws so as to make sure the money is collected. Follow up with the county is planned to settle out the particulars.
new police car
The town already has the purchase of a new police car in the works, with the cost already factored into the budget. Historically the town has been purchasing a new one every three years so that they can rotate them out,ensuring that the vehicles don’t age out at the same time. Turner stated that that system was created under previous mayor Gerald Darden.
Once they buy the car, they use them for nine years, said Newton Grove Police Chief Frankie Harrell.
“This way you have a newer car, a medium age car, and an older car,” said Commissioner Alan Herring, who serves as the town’s police commissioner.
The town also approved financing the new car with First Citizens Bank to keep things local and take advantage of their rate which was the best out of the ones that the board had.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-644-0447. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd