Delinquent taxes in Marion County for 2011 have increased to $428,000, according to information provided by Jeannine Bateman, county treasurer.
She said the total for Hillsboro is $74,000 and for Marion $99,000.
In 2008, Hillsboro homeowners and businesses were $50,000 delinquent and in 2009, that amount surpassed $103,000.
Marion in 2009 had a delinquent taxes totaling $85,000 compared to $65,000 in 2008.
Although the delinquent tax amount isn’t as high as Bateman initially thought it night be, she still believes the reason taxpayers fall behind is because of the tough economic times.
“It’s finally catching up with this area,” she said.
Bateman said each taxing entity decides how much it needs in ad valorem taxes. to meet the needs of their respective budgets.
“That is turned in to the county clerk,” she said, “and she applies the amount these taxing entities need against valuation. That is how we get taxing levy.”
When taxes are almost $430,000 delinquent and the total amount expected from all taxes is about $15 million, she said, the difference needs to be made up somewhere.
Bateman said 3 percent is historically the amount of delinquent taxes in the county.
“When a taxing entity is trying to prepare their budget, they will check and find out what last year’s delinquency factor was and will build that into their budget,” she said.
Property owners not delinquent in their taxes make up for the delinquencies.
For example, if the 3 percent is built into an existing budget, the taxes of those who pay their taxes are on time are increased by the amount of the delinquency.
Basically what happens, she said, is that the people who pay get to pay for the people who don’t.
Bateman said there are at least three options available to help delinquent taxpayers. Those include putting money into an escrow account, qualifying for a state Homestead property tax refund or talking with Bateman.
“We have taxpayers in our tax holding (escrow) account who are making monthly payments to catch up on their delinquent taxes,” she said. “But it is really hard to catch up. About the time one year is paid off, another goes delinquent.”
Unless someone in arrears is paying enough to cover more than one year, she said, it is hard for them to get ahead.
“At least if they keep working at it they are not getting farther behind,” she said.
The way the escrow program works, Bateman said, is that taxpayers pay into an account on a monthly basis; when the property tax bill is due, the money is moved from the escrow account to the treasurer’s office.
“We have had this escrow program for many years, but now the county purchased software that automates everything,” she said.
Property taxes are due Dec. 20 and May 10, but a homeowner can jump in at any point, she said.
Using a $50,000 home as an example, Bateman estimated property taxes of $1,650.50 or $138 a month. After three years of unpaid taxes, the county will foreclose, putting the property in jeopardy of being sold at a sheriff’s auction.
“Nobody wants a resident’s house,” she said. “We want to operate the county, not become landowners.”
Another option is checking with a lending institution to see if loans are available.
The state’s Homestead program can also help those who qualify. A Kansas resident can be eligible for a refund of 75 percent of their property taxes if their total household income, including Social Security, is $18,200 or less.
The three main qualifications for this program: a person must be 65 years or older, does not have delinquent property taxes in 2012 and may claim either a Safe Senior or Homestead refund.
Other Homestead programs also are available. For more information, contact the Kansas Department of Revenue at 785-368-8222.
Anyone who is having trouble meeting his or her tax burden is encouraged to call or stop by the treasurer’s office.
“We ask taxpayers to come and see us and we will work with them as much as we can,” she said. “Once someone gets behind, though, it’s so hard to catch up.”
For more information, call the treasurer’s office at 620-382-2180 or stop by the Marion County Courthouse.