County could publish list of delinquent taxpayers

Caroline County is missing nearly $350,000 in delinquent 2013 personal property taxes, and the Board of Supervisors is exploring options to bring that figure as close to zero as possible.

Supervisors discussed the matter with Caroline County Treasurer Beth Curran at their April 8 meeting, and they reviewed what the county is already doing to enforce tax bills.

An additional option drew their attention—one they intend to take a closer look at.

State law allows counties to publish a list of delinquent taxpayers annually in a local newspaper and on the county’s website. This could apply to all accounts with balances greater than $20 as of June 30, although the county could set the bar higher—for example, by publishing only the top 30 or 40 delinquent taxpayers.

Currently, if delinquent notices prove fruitless, Caroline County uses DMV stops, wage liens, and bank liens.

According to Curran, the county has placed 95 DMV stops so far this year. Caroline placed 981 stops in 2013 and 596 in 2012.

A DMV stop means those delinquent taxpayers will be unable to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicular registrations or complete other DMV transactions until they have paid in full.

“I don’t know what you’re not doing (to collect delinquent taxes), to be honest with you,” Madison Supervisor Wayne Acors said before bringing up the publishing option.

Acors recalled when the county utilized that option in the late 1980s. He said an issue that arose at that time was when people paid off their accounts after the newspaper’s advertising deadline but before their names appeared in that week’s paper.

“I think for the majority of people, it’s embarrassing to see their names in the paper owing money for taxes,” Acors said.

Western Caroline Supervisor Jeff Black thanked Curran and her staff for their collection efforts, and he noted that the board was preparing to approve an 11-cent increase on the real estate tax rate that evening.

“It’s very important that at the same time we put those taxes down that we also, to be fair to everyone, that we collect from everyone,” Black said.

In January, the treasurer’s office had mailed 8,964 notices to delinquent tax accounts for last year’s bills. At that time, the county was still owed about $900,000 total, but at the April 8 meeting, Curran reported that $556,027 of that had been collected.

Vice Chairman Jeff Sili of Bowling Green, who presided over the meeting, said the treasurer’s office would look into the possibility of publishing a list of delinquent taxpayers, and the board would revisit the topic at its June 10 meeting.

The $350,000 in delinquent personal property taxes does not include real estate taxes.

Curran said the county collects roughly 96 percent of real estate taxes each year, and the county’s budget is developed with that level of collection in mind.

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 5:39 pm