JC faces declining property tax revenues

Officials cite an increase in tax delinquencies

Jefferson City is facing declining revenue for the coming fiscal year, and one area of revenue that is predicted to fall is property taxes.

Last month, City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus revealed his draft of the 2014 budget, which is the first step in a months-long process to get to an approved budget. Nickolaus’ draft showed an expected 12 percent drop in general revenue, predicting flat sales tax and declining property and utility taxes.

According to the draft budget itself, the property tax decline is not large; it is predicted to fall from $5.221 million to $5.209 million.

Nickolaus had said the declining taxes are not tied to declining values, but more due to a decrease in collections.

Judy Trail, deputy assessor with the Cole County Assessor’s Office, said total overall values for the county have not dropped.

“I’m not seeing a decrease in the values,” Trail said. “The market has started improving.”

The Cole County Collector’s Office reported in March that delinquencies were up this year, going from $3.1 million to $3.6 million.

Cole County Collector Larry Vincent said delinquencies began to rise around the time the economy began to crash.

Delinquencies can be difficult to collect, Vincent said, when it comes to personal property.

For real estate, Vincent said, the collector’s office can sell properties when taxes have not been paid for three years.

For personal property, the hope is that the Department of Revenue will catch the delinquency when someone tries to get new license plates. The collector’s office can get a person’s registration suspended, he said, and letters are sent to the most delinquent taxpayers to try and collect.

“But a lot of the times on the personal property stuff, people have left town or left the state and there’s no way to track them down and get the money,” Vincent said.

He added that the law does allow for other remedies, but those are rarely used. The sheriff could seize a property for delinquent taxes, but the sheriff’s office requires a court order to do it, Vincent said. Another possibility would be full prosecution, but that requires both time and resources.

“Those people have duties that are more important than chasing after somebody that hasn’t paid their taxes, quite obviously,” Vincent said. “All county collectors I know have that same issue.”

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