HAZARD — For the first time in the City of Hazard, the city has decided to vigorously attempt to collect delinquent property taxes. The goal of the property tax collection, Assistant City Attorney Lori Reynolds says, is to bring in profits for the City of Hazard, rectify any data errors on the tax bills, and inform the residents/citizens of Hazard that the city’s administration is making an effort to run the city fairly and economically.
The city sent out 1,100 letters to delinquent taxpayers on Jan. 19. Most of the recipients were those who had been in delinquency for a number of years. If the individual pays within 30 days of the date received within the letter, he or she will not be subjected to accumulated interest, prorated mailing costs and prorated attorney fees.
Reynolds estimates the net value of the delinquent taxes within the letters that were sent out to be approximately $200,000.
The city won’t offer any sort of payment arrangements. According to Reynolds, this because of two reasons.
1.) The debt is secured by a lien on the property. The lien over the property gives no advantages to the City to accept payments.
2.) It would be problematic for the city to keep up with payments, especially if the taxpayer decides not to honor the payment arrangement because the city would have to keep track of the interest, costs and fees.
The second step the city will take to collect the delinquent taxes will be a mass collection lawsuit. Reynolds expects to have the mass case filed by this summer. Under the mass collection lawsuit, the city will be able to file one lawsuit with every delinquent bill added as a separate count. This would make the lawsuit under one case number.
Mayor Jimmy Lindon and the city will try to give taxpayers enough time to pay off the delinquent tax debt before filling the mass collection lawsuit. Mayor Lindon understands that some of the taxpayers are on a fixed income and have to save an amount each month to pay off the debt.
Once the lawsuit is filed, a list of the delinquent taxpayers will be published in The Hazard Herald, with the cost being prorated and added to the delinquent taxpayer’s debt. This is outlined in the city’s tax Ordinance No. 37.16, Section 37.16.04.
During the collection process the taxpayer, mortgage company, any lien-holder or other individuals or company claiming interest in the property can pay off the tax debt.
Prior to the city foreclosing the property, banks and loan companies that have mortgages or liens on the property will be notified of the lawsuit and this would allow them to have a chance to pay off the debt.
Reynolds hopes that the delinquent property tax collection would bring in a minimum of $125,000 for the city.
Under Section 37.16.09 of Ordinance No. 37.16, the taxes levied and collected will be deposited into the general fund of the city for the use of the general operating expenses. By a way of a vote, the City Commissioners of Hazard can direct the usage of the tax proceeds.
Reynolds said that there had been some confusion among the citizens of Hazard concerning the delinquent property taxes. She said that she has had several phone calls from individuals who told her they saw their names in the The Herald last year and paid the tax. Reynolds wanted to point out that was the county’s tax, not the city. This is the first time the city has actively collected property tax and has never published delinquent taxes in The Herald.
If any taxpayer would like further information or if they believed they received a letter in error, they can call Reynolds at 606-233-3266 or her assistant at 606-224-4004.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.