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Delinquent taxes soar by 31.5%

Economy blamed for more parcels, bigger tab on unpaid taxes list

Managing editor

Hit by recession, Marion County’s delinquent tax list has swelled by 31.5 percent this year.

A total of $366,198 in property taxes were unpaid July 31, the deadline for avoiding inclusion on the list. Last year, $278,432 was unpaid by that time.

This year’s total comes from 462 parcels, compared with 414 last year.

Although 97 percent paid their taxes on time, it wasn’t easy.

“My office staff has heard from taxpayers that times are tough,” Treasurer Jeannine Bateman said. “People are working hard to get their taxes paid.”

An escrow program implemented a couple of years ago has 126 active participants. Bateman believes this program has helped many pay their taxes on time.

Taxpayers in the program use coupons as reminders to make monthly payments or an automatic monthly deduction can be made from bank accounts.

Money is held in an escrow account until taxes are due.

“The program has been growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.

Taxpayers can join at any time but it doesn’t mean they’re off the hook regarding delinquent taxes.

“We can’t keep them out of the newspaper or from a sheriff’s sale if they’re delinquent and in the program, but we can try to work with them,” Bateman said.

State statutes give county treasurers more latitude than in the past, allowing them to make pay arrangements.

“I have some taxpayers who pay monthly and even every other week,” Bateman said. “I’m willing to work with them any way I can to ease the tax burden.”

Another indicator of tough times is published mortgage foreclosures.

In 2002, 20 were published in the Marion County Record. That number increased to 36 in 2003. Since then, it has decreased to as few as 17 in 2007 but spiked again in 2008 with 35, when delinquent taxes also increased.

This year appears to be about the same as 2008 with 19 recorded so far, on track with the same number after the first eight months in 2008.

Bateman said it was difficult to measure the impact of mortgage foreclosures to delinquent taxes.

“Sometimes banks will pay taxes on mortgages in foreclosure to protect their interests,” she said.

Last modified Aug. 13, 2009

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