County reports success in recouping delinquent taxes

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Sheriff’s Tax Office has recouped 100 percent of delinquent real estate taxes in the county for 2016, the county’s chief tax deputy told the Upshur County Commission Thursday.

Heather Parke appeared before commission at its weekly meeting to summarize the steps she and her tax deputies went through to ensure they had collected the maximum amount of delinquent real estate property taxes possible.

“I’m here today to present to you the final disposition for the 2016 delinquent real property taxes,” Parke said. “This is an enormous task which started in May with the first delinquent and real personal property tax being generated in May 2017.”

At that point, tax deputies discovered there were approximately 1,542 delinquent properties totaling about $455,000 in delinquent taxes. After that list of properties was advertised in local media in accordance with state code, a second list was produced in September 2017, which was again advertised in the local newspaper for three consecutive weeks.

“At that time, we started researching each piece of property extensively,” Parke said. “My deputies pulled map cards in the assessor’s office to verify any splits in ownership. We check addresses to make sure we have the correct addresses on file. Really, we research every aspect of the property to ensure the correct taxpayers are being notified.”

The research typically takes about a month to complete, Parke said. Then, the tax office mails out certified letters to the owners of the delinquent properties.

“Once we feel confident that we have the best information available for each property, we prepare certified letters to the taxpayers and to the lien holders,” Parke explained.

In October 2017, the sheriff’s tax office mailed 950 certified letters; then, the office held its land sale Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Prior to the sale, the sheriff’s tax office had redeemed — or received payment for — 1,185 properties.

“We had suspended 231 properties totaling $8,500 before the sale, and these were properties that could not be sold in the … land sale and the bulk of those … had been previously sold at the state,” Parke said.

Of the 126 properties taken to the sheriff’s land sale, 114 were purchased by individuals who attended, and the taxes on those properties totaled $33,000.

“Twelve properties were not bid on and sold to the state, and they totaled $1,673 and since these properties were sold to the state, the state will hold them until March 31, 2019, and they can be redeemed by the taxpayer until that day,” Parke said.

Parke said the county has essentially collected 100 percent of real estate taxes on delinquent properties.

“The only thing that isn’t considered collected is what we sold to the state, so out of all the millions of dollars that we collect, roughly $1,673 was technically not collected so when I ran the cumulative showing the summary year-to-date it shows we’re at 100 percent collected,” Parke said. 

Upshur County residents who want to redeem their properties can do so by calling the West Virginia State Auditor’s Tax Office, Land Division at 1-888-509-6568, Parke said.

“I do want to stress to the citizens of Upshur County that have had a tax lien sold against their property, whether it was to the state or to an individual, that they can redeem these properties and get them back,” she explained. “The state auditor’s office will tell them what they must do and the amount that is needed to be paid in order to get them back.”

Parke thanked her employees for their diligence.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my tax deputies for all of their dedication and hard work,” Parke said. “These ladies go above and beyond to make our delinquent tax sale process as smooth as possible. They’re a true pleasure to work with and I could not do my job without them.”

Commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady wanted to know if the state will pay the county back, should it sell any of the county’s properties.

“And if the state sells whatever, do they pay us back?” Brady asked.

Parke said no, but buyers will presumably begin paying taxes on formerly delinquent properties.

“They do not, no, but if it’s someone in this county – or even if it’s not someone from this county – the taxes then will start being paid again by whoever buys [the properties],” she said. “So while the state has them, technically, they’re not ours, but once they are sold, they come back into the system and start generating tax revenue.”

Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion that the commission sign the Affidavit of Acceptance of the final disposition, which was seconded by Brady before passing unanimously.

Before adjourning, the commission also:

* Approved a request from Charles M. Baisden, W.Va. State Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, asking that Upshur County issue a proclamation declaring Upshur County as a Purple Heart County. Baisden’s goal is to have all 55 counties issue this proclamation.

* Approved signing a resolution recognizing endorsing the application for the Industrial Access Road leading into the Upshur County Industrial Park and Weyerhaeuser for the Upshur County Development Authority for state funding in the amount of $310,000.

* Approved sending notification to Melissa Garretson Smith, executive director of the W.Va. Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority, requesting an additional time extension for the completion of the Circuit Courtroom ADA Compliance project.

* Approved appointing county assessor Dustin Zickefoose to the Upshur County Development Authority Board. Zickefoose’s term begins Feb. 1, 2018 and expires June 30, 2021.

* Approved reappointing Rob Hinton, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, to the Corridor H Authority. His term will expire June 30, 2021.

* Approved a request from Bethany Burkhart, Tri-County Child Exchange and Visitation program site supervisor, to promote Patty Hardman to site supervisor, effective Jan. 21, 2018. Hardman will be paid $9.50 an hour to work a maximum of 19 hours per week.

* Received correspondence from Kimbra Wachob, assistant director of the Upshur County Comm Center, announcing the resignation of Meagan Linger, full-time telecommunicator, effective Jan. 10, 2018. The commission also approved Wachob’s request to hire Betty DeLaura Courtney as full-time telecommunicator effective Jan. 29, 2018 at a pay rate of $11 per hour.

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