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Delinquent property taxes on rise in Davis County

SHARE Delinquent property taxes on rise in Davis County

FARMINGTON — As the economy continues in the doldrums, Davis County government is seeing an increase in delinquent property taxes, but Treasurer Mark Altom is confident the back taxes will be paid before any properties are auctioned off by the county.

Until this year, names of property owners delinquent in their taxes were published in a local weekly newspaper. A change in state law now allows the county to publish the names on its Web site, www.co.davis.ut.us/treasurer/, and mail notices to property owners.

The change, while a large cost savings to the county, is also more efficient in notifying property owners and mortgage companies outside the area or state, since they can access the information from the Web site, Altom said.

"It cost the county $3,000 for materials, labor and postage to mail out the notices, versus paying $9,800 to publish in the (Davis County) Clipper last year," he said.

Since mailing out the notices in the last week of December, Altom said the response from property owners whose payments are delinquent has been "incredible" with a large number of people showing up to pay their taxes the day after receiving their notices.

Still, Altom estimates that the total number of delinquencies this year to be in the 6 percent to 8 percent range of the county's 81,000 taxable properties. That would be an increase of 2 percent to 3 percent over normal.

In the long run, the county ends up collecting nearly all the taxes, as mortgage lenders or others step in at the last minute to redeem properties. And some of the delinquencies are from mortgage companies not making tax payments on time.

After five years of delinquency, properties will be auctioned off by the county in a May sale. Properties delinquent since 1998 will go on the auction block this May.

By March 15, Altom turns over the list of delinquent properties to the Clerk/Auditor's Office, and they are advertised for four consecutive weeks prior to a tax sale. "Taxpayers have until the sale to redeem their properties. Many times the mortgage holder or lien holder comes forward to pay the taxes," he said.

By state law, an interest rate of 6 percent more than the federal funds discount rate is added to delinquent taxes until they are paid. The current discount rate is 0.75 percent, giving a total rate of 6.75 percent. "Some developers choose not to pay on time, because the money is cheap to borrow, but they do end up paying interest and compensating the taxpayers," Altom said.

"It's interesting that the Utah Code did not require county treasurers to send individual delinquent notices to taxpayers, but the Utah Association of Counties encouraged legislation last year to send notices to taxpayers and make the information more available through electronic means," Altom said.

E-MAIL: lweist@desnews.com