County should use the help in fighting tax delinquents

No one likes a scofflaw. And if you’re a taxpaying law-abiding citizen, you especially dislike tax scofflaws.

Columbiana County doesn’t like tax scofflaws, either, and now action may be coming to make long-term tax delinquents pay up.

County tax delinquencies totaled $11 million when Treasurer Linda Bolon took office in January 2013. She managed to reduce that total to $10 million by sending out warning letters to property owners advising them they had 30 days to pay up or enter into a payment plan. Those who failed to do so are referred to the county prosecutor’s office to begin foreclosure proceedings, a slow process that can often take years to conclude.

Now, those who have failed to pay up or set up a payment plan may have to face the wrath of a tax collection agency.

Bolon spoke to county commissioners recently about her intention to contract with Tax Ease Ohio LLC, which is used by at least 24 other Ohio counties. The county would sell its delinquent properties as a bundle through a tax lien sale. The successful bidder would pursue the delinquent taxes, with property owners being allowed up to one year to pay their delinquent taxes, along with interest of up to 18 percent, fees and penalties. After one year the company could initiate foreclosure proceedings.

People who genuinely are having problems paying their tax bills are usually the ones who have already contacted the treasurer’s office to set up a payment plan, but some people are notorious for not paying their obligations, even if they have the means.

If you’re a regular reader of the pages of property tax delinquencies we run periodically in the Morning Journal, we’re sure you’ve noticed that some of the names appear repeatedly with every publication of the list and some of them are listed for tax delinquencies on several different properties. You probably have also noticed names of people believed to be financially capable of paying their taxes, but they just choose to not pay.

Bolon said to let this continue is unfair to not only those who pay their property taxes but local entities that rely on the taxes as a source of operating income, especially school districts, which receive 70 percent of all property taxes.

Collecting only $1 million of the $11 million owed shows that handling the problem internally is not very efficient, and waiting years for foreclosures to conclude is also a waste of time.

This plan sounds pretty simple. The tax clock will begin ticking and that year will roll around quickly for those who simply prefer to ignore their obligations.

No one likes to pay taxes, but it’s a little less painful if everyone is paying what they owe.