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January 31, 2013

It’s all coming back

Report: County gets almost all property tax money it levies

ATHENS — A report from a firm that collects delinquent property taxes for Henderson County shows that over time the county receives all but a fraction of a percent of the tax it levies.

Elizabeth Vaughn of McReary, Veleska, Bragg & Allen, P.C. of Round Rock, told Commissioners Court on Tuesday that the county has collected 99.35 percent of taxes levied in 2007 and 99.25 percent in 2008. The 2011 collection rate now stands at 97.3 percent and over time should also pass the 99-percent threshold.

Vaughn is the attorney responsible for the day-to-day supervision and direction of the collection program. She said when penalties and interest are added, collections for the last three years exceed 100 percent of the original tax levy. In each of those years, the firm collected more than $500,000 in penalty and interest.

Each year’s property taxes are due January 31. Those not paid by July 1 are considered delinquent and are referred to McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen to begin the collection process. MVBA does not charge the county a fee for its collection service, but is allowed to keep 30 percent of the total collected.

Vaughn said the firm sent more than 54,000 notices on 2011 taxes between July 1, 2011, and September 31, 2012. The notices have resulted in 490 tax suits and 215 judgments.

“When property owners are aware that delinquent taxes are aggressively pursued, there is more incentive for property owners to pay their current taxes in a timely manner,” Vaughn said.

The first notice MVBA sends is a politely-worded reminder, Vaughn said. The second notice informs the property owner that a tax lien hasbeen attached to their property and they are personally liable for the tax. The third notice states that if the taxes aren’t paid, a delinquent tax suit will be filed against the property owner and the property. In 2011-2012, more than 8,000 property owners were sent demand notices.

Vaughn said the residual total balance of delinquent taxes for the past 20 years was $2,468,209 as of December 31, 2012, and added that with each passing year, the outstanding balance becomes more difficult to collect. Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said even through the almost $2.5 million in outstanding taxes is a large amount it’s a relatively small percentage of the more than $400 million the county has levied over the past 20 years.

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