Unpaid delinquent taxes could add needed budget boost

Property tax is one of the primary ways that the county’s budget is funded.

So when they go unpaid, it throws a wrench in balancing a budget that can adequately fund every part of the county.

Anderson County Trustee Regina Copeland, who is serving her first term as Trustee, inherited nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes. Through courtesy phone calls and a whole lot of (wo)man hours, her office has brought that amount down by a little more than $655,000.

The total amount in property taxes the county sent out bills for in 2018 was $45,365,914.00.

A tax sale was held in May 2018, but prior to that, the last one was in 2014. The 2018 sale was for the 2012-2013 unpaid property taxes, and did not include all the properties.

Currently, $575,395.80 is due from homeowners who have not yet paid their 2017 property taxes. For 2016, that number is $268,644. The number dwindles as the years go on because people do tend to either sell their properties or pay off their taxes.

Often, when a tax sale is announced, people line up by the Clerk and Master’s office like they’re waiting in line at an amusement park, according to Clerk and Master Harold Cousins. Just knowing their properties could get auctioned off usually gets people moving.

Copeland said she’s seen the same result with simple courtesy calls. The county isn’t necessarily interested in selling people’s homes, according to Copeland, and so her office has recently partnered with TN Bank to help people prepay their property taxes.

“That way it doesn’t hit them all at once,” she said.

She believes that offering that service will create a scenario where the amount of unpaid taxes is close to zero.

A separate property tax issue is the property tax freeze and property tax relief programs. These programs are for seniors over the age of 65 who make less than $41,020 for the freeze and less than $27,600 for the relief. They are state programs, and the county is reimbursed for the relief program, but not the freeze.

Each year, both programs have eliminated, on average, $630,420 in property taxes that would have otherwise been paid to the county.

While it is a state program, each county commission has to approve the programs for its own residents.